How we continue to make God into matter…and does it matter?

We try to make Jesus present…
Gavin Ashenden

Firstly—yes, it does matter that man continues to attempt to make God into matter…
because that means that where the spark of the Creator remains,
the created continue to seek Him…

I was so very blessed yesterday when I got to watch the video, included below,
that was actually an interview between Bishop Gavin Ashenden and the British journalist
Rodney Hearth concerning the good bishop’s observation regarding the fire at Notre Dame.

Bishop Ashenden does a marvelous job of sorting through this emotional event from the lens
of a Protestant…

Contrary to popular belief, Anglicans / Episcopalians are Protestants…
and as I’ve tried explaining before, Catholics are not some sort of two-headed monster.

I’ve grievously come to realize that many of the Protestant faith do not understand
why everyone is making such a to do over the fire at Norte Dame.

Sadly they do not see the relevance to their own faith.

And that is in part…a lost lesson in history.

Yet I am not here today to teach but rather to share.

The good Bishop explains that humankind has always attempted to make God into what
we all can comprehend…that being matter–the same of which we are made.

This is why the ancient churches and cathedrals were built—man reaching upward
to the unseen Creator—a tangible to the nontangible.

With regard to this very tragic and very public fire,
the good Bishop notes the significance of fire and the Christian faith as a
“Theology of Fire.”

He also shares the observation of crisis—of which this fire was…
as it is just one more piece to the crisis of the collective Church in Europe,

Crisis in Greek, κρίσις, translates to judgment.

And when we stand in judgment, we are exposed to God’s fire—
It is a fire that burns away the dross… that of our sin—
It burns but it equally cleanses when we repent…becasue we are cleansed by a Holy fire.

But on the other hand, if we do not repent, we are also exposed to Holy fire—
however, this is the fire of Holy Judgement and in that unrepentance,
we are cast into an unending inferno.

It was not lost on either of the men that ironically, there is a symbol of Christianity
burning on an island that was flanked on either side by the right and the left banks…

In the reality of the current battle being waged by the culture gods of secular relativism
as they strive to prevail, working earnestly to erase any vestige of our Judaeo / Christian
heritage…the Left fights the Right over which values our culture must embrace—all the while,
in between these two warring factions sits the Church— engulfed in a raging inferno.

The key question to Christians and to all of Christianity, a question I continue to ask—-
how will we, the faithful, respond?

“Interpreting the great fire of Notre Dame.” Gavin Ashenden in conversation with Rodney Hearth.

what matters most…

“In order to be an image of God, the spirit must turn to what is eternal,
hold it in spirit, keep it in memory, and by loving it, embrace it in the will.”

St. Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

“Listen with the ear of your heart.”
– St. Benedict of Nursia


(the Gulf of Mexico as seen from Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

There’s so much we could be chatting about.
So much to be talking about…
So much I’ve been thinking about.
Because if we just check in on the world, just the mere checking in swings wide the doors
of conversation both vast and far…

Yet today that all seems to be of little consequence.

However we do continue to get caught up in all of that, don’t we?

The ‘he said, she said’ of all things political, entertainment or merely worldly.
As we allow it to fuel our wrath, our angst, our sick perversions as we jump
on the neighboring soap boxes of others, prepared to pick up a sword and duel it out.

Such duels are done publically each and every day on the news just as duels are
done here in the blogosphere.
We trade jabs back and forth, parlaying a thrust here and an attack there to those we perceive
to be our enemies…

I’ve not watched much news this week–it’s been kind of nice missing out…
Yet I did catch a snippet of the breaking news out of Kentucky and of the high school shooting
which took place this past week—
a shooting that took the lives of two teenagers—while 12 others, I think, are now
suffering from their wounds…
All the while, a teenage gunman has been taken into custody—
As no motive has yet been shared.

I taught high school for over half my adult life…
After Columbine, I knew what it was like to always hold in the back of my mind the notion
that one day ‘one of ours’ could go off the deep end, or worse, someone from outside could go off
the deep end, coming inside to our world with that empty lostness,
that personification of evil, bringing that unseemingly senseless havoc into our world.

There is an utter helplessness when such happens.
Life stands still for the never-ending seconds while lives change forever.

And now that those seconds of change have passed, as lives are once again lost and changed,
the rest of us prepare to jump up on those boxes of ours with swords held high,
as we once again prepare to go to battle over mental health, gun control, safety,
security… on and on goes the list of ills…

But the bottom line is that lives are gone and lives are changed and people are hurting.

That’s the bottom line.

I was moved reading the tale today of the dad whose son was one of the two victims who lost
their young lives in that high school in Kentucky…

That dad raced to the high school and knew that the body on the stretcher being rushed from
the building was that of his son’s because he recognized the socks on the feet of the body
on the stretcher—because they were the socks he’d laid out the night before for his son
to put on the following morning.

I always made certain my son had his clothes laid out too—all through high school,
as I’d remind him, as he’d found himself too old for me to continue laying them out for him,
all so he wouldn’t have to rush around figuring out what to wear the next morning.

I wept for this father who was miraculously given the time to tell his dying son how much
he loved him.

I wept for the first responder mom who made her way to the school only to discover that her’s
was the son who was the shooter.

I wept for the family of the young lady also killed, just as I weep for the other victims in the
various hospitals.

I weep for all those who no longer have a sense of innocence or a sense of safety
or a sense of faith–as those things become victims as well.

I weep for all of us, for humankind, as we forget and are jolted back to reality as we
grapple with the understanding that we live in a broken and fallen world.

I weep because we have become so jaded by such stories that we can no longer weep but prefer rather
to immediately jump on the soapbox of battle.

Never mind the necessary mourning.
Never mind our pain, our sorrow, our brokenness…
For we have long decided that to deal with our mourning is to ignore our pain,
to ignore the hurt…

And maybe it will just go away.

There will be those rallying cries from those soapboxes,
that is if they haven’t already started crying—
that if we could just gather up every gun, identify every person before they are pushed one
step too far, if we could just do this or just do that…

But what we fail to grasp, is that life will always remain precarious.
Trgeday and Death will never leave us alone.
And none of us are exempt from the tears of sorrow…

I can only hope that in all of the sorrow, in all of the tragedies,
in all of the loss, be it public or private, that we will remember to find our compassion
at such times and not our hate.
That we can find our prayers and not our accusations and that we can remember to be the
the tangible and physical embodiment of God’s love offered freely to those who now hurt…

Since all our love for God is ultimately a response to His love for us, we can never love Him,
in the same way, He loves us, namely, gratuitously.
Since we are fundamentally dependent on God and in His debt for our creation and redemption,
our love is always owed to Him, a duty,
a response to His love. But we can love our neighbor in the same way that He loves us,
gratuitously—not because of anything the neighbor has done for us or because of anything
that we owe him, but simply because love has been freely given to us.
We thereby greatly please the Father.
God the Father tells Catherine [of Siena]: This is why I have put you among your neighbors:
so that you can do for them what you cannot do for me—that is,
love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself.
And whatever you do for them I will consider done for me.”

– Ralph Martin, p. 261
An Excerpt From
Fulfillment of all Desire

“Prayer is, as it were, being alone with God.
A soul prays only when it is turned toward God, and for so long as it remains so.
As soon as it turns away, it stops praying.
The preparation for prayer is thus the movement of turning to God and away from all
that is not God.
That is why we are so right when we define prayer as this movement.
Prayer is essentially a ‘raising up’, an elevation.
We begin to pray when we detach ourselves from created objects and raise
ourselves up to the Creator.”

Dom Augustin Guillerand, p. 91
An Excerpt From
The Prayer of the Presence of God

“We find rest in those we love,
and we provide a resting place for those who love us.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

heads of serpents

“The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage
and the family.
Do not be afraid,
because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will
always be fought and opposed in every way,
because this is the decisive issue.
However, Our Lady has already crushed his head.”

Sister Lucia


(Madonna and Child with St Anne / Caravaggio / 1605-1606 / Galleria Borghese, Rome)

Caravaggio was a masterful late Renaissance painter who seems to have been able to
capture the overwhelming importance of certain biblical moments with merely the tip
of a brush.
He mixed both arrangement, size, light and proportion to make both impressive,
as well as tremendous, visual impacts.

Yet for many art historians, this particular painting is not considered one of his better works.
However workmanship aside, the visual representation based on the verse from Genesis 3:15,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

is indeed a powerful painted statement none the less.

A little history behind the painting, taken from the site Caravaggio.org

The Madonna and Child with Saint Anne was painted between 1605 and 8 April 1606,
when a final payment to Caravaggio was recorded,
for the Confraternity of Sant’ Anna dei Palafrenieri, or Grooms, of the Vatican Palace.
The composition depicts Christ and the Virgin treading simultaneously on the serpent of heresy,
watched by the Virgin’s mother, St. Anne, who was the patron saint of the Palafrenieri.
It was an unusual although topical theme based on an ambiguous biblical passage, Genesis 3:15,
which does not make it clear whether it was Eve, the antetype of Mary, the ‘New Eve’,
or her offspring who was meant to strike at the serpent’s head.
What started as a theological dispute became caught up in the wider debate between
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism,
with the Protestants not unnaturally arguing in favour of the offspring and, hence, Christ.
The issue was resolved on the Roman Catholic side, however, with commendable textual accuracy,
not to say religious tact,
by a Bull of Pius V which ruled that ‘the Virgin crushed the head of the serpent
with the aid of him to whom she had given birth.’
It is this interpretation which Caravaggio followed, possibly basing himself on a
slightly earlier picture by the Milanese artist Figino.

Yet Papal Bulls, Reformations and denominations aside…
Today’s faithful know that the head of the serpent was indeed crushed following that fateful
Friday afternoon outside of the walls of the old city of Jerusalem.
And if the truth be told, the vice hold on the head began that lone starry night
in Bethlehem 33 years prior.

The quote from above is offered by Sister Lucia, the oldest of the three shepherd children
who, while tending their sheep in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, were visited by a strange yet
lovely lady.

And yet it matters not where you are on your Christian journey as to whether you
take stock in the tale of the shepherd children or of the tale of the miraculous..
Just as it matters not as to whether you believe that there was indeed such a heavenly
encounter now 100 years passed…
The important thing here however is to understand that wisdom and warning both
come to us in a myriad of fashions.

There are many in today’s world, both believers and ardent non believers,
who wonder and even argue that those tales of miracles and those outspoken prophets of
the bible are found only there…
in between the pages of ancient texts…
and that our world has not been privy to such powerful and outspoken voices, with such
names as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, John, Peter, Paul and that we have not witnessed such
miraculous examples as to partings of seas, or to the raising of dead bodies,
or to waters that turn either to blood or wine…
but if truth be told,
both believers and non believers, yearn for that very thing.

It is a yearning for the tangible being found in the miraculous of that of the intangible.

Our current time is precarious at best…
Where persecution of the faithful becomes seemingly more elusive yet more sinister….
as it is an intellectual and spiritual suffocation.

While that which was once overt is no longer clearly visible but rather is now veiled in
the gossamer shadows of confusion.
It is a place where the notions of acceptance and approval pervasively reign for that
which is upside down.

What was once accepted as Truth has now been twisted into something other than
as we are being spoon fed a most palatable mix of half truths and lies…
all the while we continue to clamor for bite after tasty bite.

Yet the time has come…
shall the faithful speak up and speak out?

A final battle will eventually ensue..
there have been preparations, when he left us, he made certain we were well equipped.
As he has provided ample opportunities, all of which have been freely offered..
all the while as a holy foot has held the head of the serpent at bay…

So the choice is now clear, either we opt to crush the head of the serpent or
we become his prey…

He who commits sin is of the devil;
for the devil has sinned from the beginning.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him,
and he cannot sin because he is born of God.
By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil:
whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:8-10

Gone home….


(a table in my son’s home—his tribute to his grandfather)

Dad passed away last night—it was 11:42 when I was called.
We’d spent the day with him and my son was with him last around 9:30 PM
His earthly journey complete…his pain and suffering no more.
As I drove back over for the second time that day, just past midnight,
I was swept over by a sense of calm knowing Dad was finally
with Mother.

I had written the following post after sitting with him yesterday.
I think it still important to share…
But just know that death has once again been overcome by
Life!

Edward Dale Nichols
March 10, 1928—March 19, 2017

Thank you all for your love, prayers and support….

it’s never like the movies

“The truth is that you can never be sure if you have decided on the right thing until
the party is over,
and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind,
which is why the world is filled with people doing terrible things”

Lemony Snicket

Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back for its ability to create
iconic and memorable snippets of life…
With some of the most captivating moments being those dramatic scenes of both death and dying.

A quick little Google search of iconic death scenes and you get anything from Alien
to Bambi, while my generation most likely thinks Love Story…
with it’s now immortalized tag line,
“love is never having to say your sorry….”

But anyone who has ever been involved in any sort of real life relationship knows that that
particular little Hollywood dribble is just a bunch of crap…
but of course, I digress….

No matter what overtly dramatized film moment you may happen to recall when thinking
classic death / dying scene…
be it an endearing tearjerker like in Titanic or a graphically
gory melee of any epic war picture,
nothing quite compares to the real life drama found in the balance between
true living and dying

Take the above image of the coffee filter filled with fresh dark roasted coffee beans…

Your brain registers that you’re looking at a coffee filter filled with coffee beans…
and because of what you know about coffee beans,
you’re pretty safe assuming that there is a strong aroma associated with the beans…
However you can’t actually smell them.

Captured images just don’t processes a smell-o-rama capability.

You see the beans….
you know they have a very strong enticing smell…
but….
because they’re sitting on a screen, you only experience them with just one sense…
that of sight.

Now Hollywood works hard on a viewer’s senses of both sight and sound in order to
coax out a physical reaction…they’ll happily surmise that they’ve been succeessful if
they think that they’ve made a viewer “feel”…
be it a physical reaction from laughing to crying to even nausea….

Yet for all their special effects, they lack the sense of smell.
And the truth be told, they lack reality.

Because whereas art tries to imitate life, it will always fall short.

Now you know with your eyes and brain that the two images here of,
first the coffee beans and now a fresh bouquet of flowers,
each have a distinct aroma or smell….
but…
you can’t actually smell them by looking at them on your screen.

You can’t touch them or hear them or smell them.

You’re just working off your previous associations…

Nothing can prepare you for reality…but reality.
The nitty gritty touch, taste, hearing, seeing, smell, feel of raw reality.

Dad’s room is now filled with coffee filters filled with coffee beans.
Not because he ever greatly appreciated coffee…
but because the Hospice nurse told us it would help with the smell.

The overwhelming smell of decay because oddly the body will fall apart quite frankly
before we’re exactly finished using it.
As in the body will begin to simply erode, decay and die while we’re still hanging on…
with the end result not being a pretty picture.

Dying is so much worse then what we see in the movies.

For there is much more to it then a Hollywood script…
For it has graphic sights as well as unpleasant sounds and sickening scents…
things that never should be imitated because the reality it simply too overwhelming.

Yet in all of this….
what I know to be true is that our bodies are merely borrowed earthly vessels in which
our souls reside before we are freed from them in order to go home as it were.

Yes I believe this.

It is nearly impossible to watch and be a part of…this eroding, this wasting…
what with the sounds, sights and smells….
because our human brains and emotions are so limited…

This body is all we have known….it is what we have seen age over the years.
It is has come to represent what and who we love, who we cherish, who we hold on to,
who we cling to…who we associate our very beings with….

It is the tangible while our God is not tangible.
It only makes sense that we anguish over its demise.

And yet, in the graphic sights, sounds and smells there remains something far greater
then the decay of age or disease..

For there once was a body that had been so grossly damaged, so horrifically abused as
it had died a slow and agonizing death.
Later it was to be washed and cleaned…
anointed with sweet oils, aloes and spices before being
wrapped in freshly woven flaxen linens.

Yet following three days, more spices were brought to be added to the tomb—
a tomb that was by now assumed to be filled with the overwhelming
stench of human decay and rot…

However, that was not the case….

For within that dark enclosure—a seismic shift of time occurred…
where once life had simply slipped away and become death….
here in this dark enclosure, death had become life…

And so now we wait amongst the coffee beans…for death, to become, life….

“No tabloid will ever print the startling news that the mummified body of
Jesus of Nazareth has been discovered in old Jerusalem.
Christians have no carefully embalmed body enclosed in a glass case to worship.
Thank God, we have an empty tomb. The glorious fact that the empty tomb
proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes.
Death is not a wall, but a door.”

Peter Marshall

the tangible and the wonder of the intangible

“One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman:
two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad;
ten men sharing an idea begin to act,
a hundred draw attention as fanatics,
a thousand and society begins to tremble,
a hundred thousand and there is war abroad,
and the cause has victories tangible and real;
and why only a hundred thousand?
Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth?
You and I who agree together,
it is we who have to answer that question.”

William Morris

DSCN1865
(memorial cross inside St Patricks Cathedral / Dublin Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yesterday my good friend Color Storm, over on the Lion’s Den (https://thenakedtruth2.wordpress.com),
offered a beautiful reflection to the last line of my day’s post…
“onward and upward”…
His was a comment in response to the topic of loss and to my choice of carrying on and turning upward.

I’ve always opted for the act of carrying on and the upward momentum in life…
with the alternative of stopping, stooping, becoming stagnant and eventually spiraling downward, not an acceptable nor pleasant option.

I try avoiding downward spirals at all costs.

CS threw out a latin phrase that I had not thought of in a long time…

Sursum Corda

Sursum corda, is the opening to the Eucharistic prayer in many churches…it was, and is still, very much a part of the Rite of the Holy Eucharist in both the Episcopal and Anglican churches…as I suspect, it is still in use in other liturgical based worship services as well.

The Sursum Corda, is Latin for: “Lift up your hearts” or literally, “Hearts lifted”

The service follows as such with the celebrant / priest addressing the congregation:

The Lord be with you.
People: And with thy spirit.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up unto the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.
People: It is meet and right so to do.

(Then, facing the Holy Table (altar), the Celebrant proceeds)

It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should
at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord,
holy Father, almighty, everlasting God.

(Here a Proper Preface is sung or said on all Sundays, and on other
occasions as appointed.)

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the
company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious
Name; evermore praising thee, and saying,

(Celebrant and People)

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts:
Heaven and earth are full of thy Glory.
Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.

(Here may be added)

Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

(as taken from the Book of Common Prayer)

I watched each Sunday as my godfather, the Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral I attended growing up, would turn to those faithful gathered and raising his arms with a sweeping upward motion, began the ancient and holy ritual that had been said and done for over a millennium prior…

A literal and figurative lifting of voice, heart, soul, body and being….

For there within the heart of celebration of the Holy Eucharist, also known simply as the Communion Service, lies a most holy, sacred and mystical meeting.

That of the tangible joined with the intangible.

That which can be seen and touched colliding into that which cannot be seen nor touched…yet…
which is as present as a beating heart.

Odd how the mere mention of a long forgotten word or phrase can evoke a powerful recollection.

The recollection becomes but a reminder…
A reminder which becomes a window opening to the transcendence of both space and time.

There has been much debate throughout Christendom, ever since Jesus first conducted his own last supper, over the offered body and blood, which was done with the breaking of bread and the passing of a cup of wine.

Is the bread, the wafer, the host and is the wine, the blood, the offering the true mystical body and blood of Christ…
or
are they mere representations?

Transubstantiation—the actual changing of bread and wine into that of Christ’s actual body and blood.

How can that be ask both the believing as well as non believing…?
How does earthly tangible bread and wine turn into heavenly intangible body and blood?

“Take, eat, this is my body…
Drink, this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

“For in the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread;
and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his
disciples, saying,
“Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”

Likewise, after supper, he took the cup; and when he had
given thanks, he gave it to them, saying,
“Drink ye all of this;for this is my Blood of the New Testament,
which is shed for you, and for many,
for the remission of sins.
Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.”

(taken from the Book of Common Prayer, Holy Eucharist)

To take,
to consume,
to allow that which is of Him to become a part of us…

Our faith is rooted in the mystical mystery of…
Heaven and earth,
Creator and created,
Sinless and sinful…

For our God transcends mortal comprehension

In an age when seeing is believing,
more is better than less,
everything and anything goes…
When everyone worships at the altar of self,
reality is worse than fiction
and humankind embraces death over life…

Lifting hands and hearts upward, away from the gravity laden death grip of an earthly life,
lifting and reaching from the tangible upward to the intangible…
yearning for our release from here below,
we are mystically transformed, as is the bread and wine…and are never to be the same….

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,
your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an angel,
may by his passion and cross
be brought to the glory of his resurrection.
Through the same Christ Our Lord.
Amen.

taken from the Angelus

A bucket list, the Wailing Wall and the question of the Jews

The Sages prophesied that even after the Temple’s destruction, the Divine Presence would never leave the Western Wall, and that the Wall will never be destroyed. The Wall is endowed with everlasting sanctity, as the Talmud says: “And I will make your sanctuaries desolate” (Leviticus 26:31) – this means that the sanctuaries retain their sanctity even when they are desolate.
excerpt taken from aish.com ‘Six Reasons why the Wall is Holy’

“Dispersed as the Jews are, they still form one nation, foreign to the land they live in.”
Thomas Jefferson

“It is obvious that the war which Hitler and his accomplices waged was a war not only against Jewish men, women, and children, but also against Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish tradition, therefore Jewish memory.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

DSCN4817
(woodblock print “Shalom” / Julie Cook, 1981)

I suppose everyone has a bucket list, or perhaps for some, it is simply known as a “wish list”.
It is a list of the things one would like to do or of the places one would like to see before kicking the proverbial bucket.

Most people might list wanting to climb some famous mountain, or running in a grueling marathon or competing in an arduous triathlon. Others may yearn to travel to foreign lands seeing such things as the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal or diving in the ocean to see the Great Barrier Reef. Some may wish to meet famous and influential people, witness a monumental sporting event or attempt some death defying feat. . .no matter what, where or who. . .there is no doubt, for all of us, some sort of check list stored in the recesses of our minds.

Most of the items on the list remain just that, an item on an unseen and non-tangible sheet of paper perched in ones inner being–wistful thoughts of fancy that come and go as quickly as one cares to daydream.

Most of my thoughts are not the typical items on a do or die list, as I’ve never been very typical. I have always wanted to travel to the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula, traveling to the ancient monastery of St Catherine’s, in order to view the world’s oldest Icons. Within the collection at this monastery, which is almost as old as the Christian religion, are some of the earliest known “painted” images (or as the Orthodox explain, “written” images) of Jesus.

Sadly given the tensions and unrest in Egypt, travel to the Sinai is highly discouraged for Americans, particularly Christian and Jewish Americans.

I’d also like to learn Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic as these ancient languages are lynch pins to clearly understanding the inception of and growth of Christianity. Yet, sadly, learning languages does not come easy to this brain of mine.

I would also like to visit the Wailing Wall. As in Israel, as in Jerusalem.
As in WHAT you say?!”
Yes you read correctly, the Wailing Wall.

Now why would a nice southern girl, who was raised under the hand of the Church of England as my father use to liken the Episcopal church to, want to travel to a tumultuous area of the world in order to see a crumbling holy Jewish site? Wishing, no doubt, to shove some little folded piece of paper into one of the myriad of nooks along the ancient Temple wall.

It should be noted that to have faith and to believe in something that is not tangible is never easy.
To have faith and to believe in an unseen God and of His unseen Son and of His unseen Spirit, is not for the faint of heart. Such faith often yields to the gnashing of teeth and in deed to true wailing. So often we want so desperately to have some sort of sign or acknowledgement that the things we claim, proclaim and praise are rock solid REAL.

We all have pieces of the doubting apostle Thomas running about in our minds and hearts:
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

So yes, I confess, I have a yearning to reach out in order to hold and be held. Who hasn’t ever imagined the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob reaching out for us, to envelope us in His arms. Who has never imagined themselves as that woman who, in the crowd, reached out to touch merely the hem of Jesus’ tunic–falling at His feet and clinging to his legs as a lost child!?

How many people in the midst of anguish and tearful prayers have not wanted to see the Lord their God running down the walkway in order to take them in His arms, soothing and comforting the pain, suffering and sorrow?

Somehow I feel as if standing before the Wall, stretching my arms out as possibly wide as I could, while leaning my forehead against the rough stone would be a kin to hugging God. As the Wall is considered to be Holy–as in Holy that within the walls of the Temple once rested the Holy of Holies. Other than the burning bush, other than the tomb, other than Golgotha, how more tangible is there on this earth?

Which brings me to my last posed question or thought—that being the question of the Jews.
Christianity has wrestled with this question since the day of the Crucifixion.
There has been a love hate relationship between God’s chosen people and the followers of Christ for over 2000 years.
So much alike and yet so very different.
We have blamed one another and yet defended one another.
One is the child by Divine Proclamation—while the other one is the child by adopted Grace

I for one have never had a difficult time sorting out our relationship—that between Jew and Christian.
I do not feel as if I am better than, wiser than, holier than my Jewish brethren because I made the conscious decision of following Jesus. To believe in His divinity as God’s Son–the resurrected Messiah, has made me an adopted Child by Grace.
I am not Jewish yet my Savior lived for 33 years as a very devout Jew. I have a deep respect for that very fact and for Jews to this day.

I do not blame the Jews, as unfortunately many Christians have throughout the history of Christianity, for the death of Christ. We, humankind, Jew and non Jew, all had a hand at that fateful day—just as we still do on a continuing day in and day out basis of sin. And yet, it is to the very death and Resurrection that we, humankind, are offered true life.

The life the followers of Christ are promised is not of this world—as this world, with its sorrow, difficulties, anguish, pain, suffering, unfairness, injustice, so forth and so on, is not our true home. All of us, Jew and non Jew, are freely offered this life, yet it comes down to merely a matter of choice.
To follow, or not to follow.

The price of following is our very life–as we must surrender the life of self, picking up our cross and following the Commandants of the Almighty God and the teachings of His Son.
The offer remains open to all humankind.
Those who choose to follow are no better than any of the others to whom this “gift” is offered, they are saved but no better than–as we all fall short.

No, I do not find blame in the Jews.
I do not profess to be a theologian nor Biblical scholar. I do not claim to have the nuance of a deeply studied knowledge. I do not claim to have had the opportunity of lofty study nor have I dissected ancient text or had miraculous visions.
Mine is a simple faith and a simple following.

I will leave you today with the wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The young German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was murdered by hanging on direct order of Adolf Hitler at Flossenbürg Concentration Camp April 9, 1945:

The Open Question Of Christ
God’s yes and God’s no to history, as they are known in the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, bring into every historical moment an eternal, unrelenting tension. History does not become the transitory bearer of eternal values. It is instead through the life and death of Jesus Christ that history first becomes temporal. It is precisely in its temporality that history is affirmed by God. The quest for a historical heritage is thus not the timeless quest for the eternally valid values of the past. Rather human beings placed in history are themselves accountable here for the present, as it is accepted by God in Christ. . . .The Historical Jesus is the continuity of our history. But because Jesus Christ was the promised messiah of the Israelite-Jewish people, the line of our ancestors goes back beyond the appearance of Jesus Christ and into the people of Israel. Western history is, in accordance with God’s will, indissolubly bound to the people of Israel, not only genetically but in genuine, constant encounter. The Jew Keeps the Christ question open. . . .An expulsion of the Jews from the West must bring with it the expulsion of Christ, for Jesus Christ was a Jew.

Taken form the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Barcelona, Berlin, Amerika 1928-1927