Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Golden Rule

 Reading from the Commemoration of John Bunyan

‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
 ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  -- Matthew 7:12-14

The passage from Matthew for today begins with the well-known positive statement, "… [D]o to others as you would have them do to you." We may consider it a Christian commandment, but it's interesting to find that in most world religions and cultures, that is a standard of moral and ethical living. It is  a way of making things equal and peaceful. Jesus taught it, the gospel writers felt it important enough to include it in the gospels, and yet it seems so hard to do.

Back somewhere in my life, I don't remember precisely when, I heard an opposing version, "Do unto others before they do unto you." It was hilarious at the time, but the older I got the less funny and more revolting it seemed. Watching the political statements coming out of the various campaigns and world events right now, it appears to confirm that the one word change, from "as" to "before," has become the new standard.

In thinking about this Golden Rule and how it applies to our lives, it seems Jesus might as well have saved his breath. Oh, don't get me wrong. There are many who take that rule seriously and who exemplify the rule exactly as Jesus meant it.  Our former president, Jimmy Carter, is an example of somebody who takes the Golden Rule seriously.

After leaving the presidency he could have done what a lot of them do: play a lot of golf, do a lot of traveling, and well-paid speaking engagements in far-flung places. He does those things (maybe not the golf), but also set up a foundation that seeks to do good in places where good is in severe need. He visits those needy places works to make a difference. He champions women and children all over the world, and through his foundation seeks to wipe out sources of infection that kill millions every year. He is a member of a group called the Elders who consult and work to find global solutions to global problems and also he and his wife dedicate several weeks a year to help build houses for people through Habitat for Humanity. At 90 years of age, he is a model of walking the walk, not just talking the talk. And he still teaches Sunday School at every opportunity.

What if others did to us what we did to them? What if a group of strange people with strange weapons walked into our towns and cities, began burning our homes, desecrating our sacred spaces, and forcing us to march hundreds of miles to a place far more desolate and far less conducive to our survival? We've done that to others. What if they raped "our" women and murdered children in front of us before torturing us and laughing as they did it? We've done that too. What if those with power and privilege suddenly became the powerless, the unseen, the castaways, while others assumed the characteristics of power and privilege they had been denied themselves? I wonder how we would react.

What if those of us who have been the recipients of privilege, whether we sought it or even realized it existed, suddenly found ourselves with the shoe on the other foot? What if suddenly we were viewed with suspicion, or even more suspicion than we already are, just because of the color of our skin? What if police stopped us for failure to use a turn signal and then escalated it into a major confrontation simply because we were the wrong color and therefore suspicious in someone's estimation? What if we couldn't get jobs or decent housing for our families because we belong to a certain ethnic or cultural group? What if we were as invisible and expendable as many of our citizens with different skin color are perceived? Even some of the privileged face invisibility and expendability simply because of gender, age, disAbilities, or economic status.
It's hard to accept that a takeover scenario could happen, yet privilege is exemplified every day in right in front of our eyes, unchallenged by us because we don't see it as a problem. We see rioting in the streets protesting innocent African-American children being murdered by people who made snap judgments and did unto others before the others did unto them. How many Native American youths die of suicide because they have no hope and because the privileged have chosen to ignore treaties and then refused anything more than very marginal assistance. How many young (and sometimes not so young) GLBT folk face the same hopelessness and choose the same ending because they were told they were abominations and deserved whatever they got. I wonder what the world would be like if each of us could just put ourselves in one of those situations and really try to understand what is happening and what our part in it was. Would it make a change in us?

Jesus gave us this command for specific reason: it was a distillation of the substance in all of the law and all the teachings of the prophets and was equal to the greatest commandment of all, to love God with everything we have. If we did love God that way the second part would be easy. We could put ourselves in others' shoes and walk around for a while and then do what ever it took to change things so that privilege shared by all and marginalization ceased to exist.

Instead of "Do unto others before they do unto you," what if we exchanged "before" to "as" the way Jesus said and intended it. It's very easy to walk through the wide gate of privilege without even seeing the gate is there, much less knowing the gate code. The narrow gate, however, is much harder; there's not as much wiggle room and the traveler has to be careful not to bang into the walls.

My question to myself this week is how to notice the privileges I have and really see what the world is like without that wide gate to walk through. What I have to do is to see others in the light of their own importance as God's children and my brothers and sisters, no matter what race, culture, orientation, or religion. Should they not be accorded the same privileges I and a lot of others already have?

What is God calling me to do in light of the Golden Rule? What is God calling all of us to do? How will we respond?

Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, August 29, 2015.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Broken Stones and End Times

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’  When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
 ‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. - Mark 13:1-13

When someone travels, they often go to see the sights in the area they are visiting. I remember visits to Washington DC to visit a dear friend and her family. Invariably during the visits we would take in the sights of the area. She was an inveterate museum-goer, and so we went to art galleries and the venerable Smithsonian Institution. We also took in the more spiritual sights by visiting the National Cathedral (one of my all time favorite sacred spaces), the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and even a mosque.

I preferred the mosque to the shrine because it was richly ornamented yet there was a simplicity to it. It made guests immediately welcome by having a sign over a rack indicating that it was customary to enter barefoot, lightweight scarves for women to cover their heads, and a fountain to wash hands and face to prepare for prayers and worship. The inside encouraged silence as we sat or knelt on thick Persian carpets and took the opportunity to really look at the beautiful calligraphy ornamenting the walls and the glowing colors of the stained-glass windows. I definitely had a different view when I left than when I had entered.

I imagine the disciples had something similar as they came out of the temple. Going in, they were probably focused on what they had come to do, which was to worship; coming out, however, they probably could see with different eyes. They were looking inward as they entered, but outward as they left. They noticed the big stones that they had undoubtedly passed when going in the other direction, yet they seemed not to notice them at that time. Perhaps the experience in the temple gave them permission to take a different view with them as they left.

Jesus had said in response to their tourist-like pointing out of incredible things that all of that would be thrown down, no longer in existence, perhaps forgotten. He went on to teach them to be careful who they followed because there were false shepherds who would seek to turn them and make them like fallen and broken stones .

Jesus warned about troubling times, times that seem almost familiar to us. There have been wars, there are ongoing wars, and there are rumors of wars swirling about our heads like cyclonic winds. Certainly there have been earthquakes and famines, volcanic eruptions, floods, droughts, better, bone-chilling cold and unimaginable heat. Are these the signs of the end times? Jesus said no, they were just the beginning.

There are those who examine the nightly news, talk radio, or even the Scriptures, taking note of each time that they find something that seems to point in the direction the world is going at the moment. They are consumed with the apocalyptic, and certain that Jesus will come soon, because of all the warning signs. I received a piece of email at work the other day (not for the first time) that stated something about President Obama not finishing his second term and sent by someone or some group called "End Times." Funny, I have read and continue to read the Bible, including Revelation, and don't remember seeing any such reference. Yet there are those who think they know the answer to a question Jesus himself said he did not know. Many have tried to guess when the end times would be, but nobody's gotten it right yet. Perhaps it's something we have to act as if it were happening tomorrow, just in case.

There's certainly nothing unusual these days about finger-pointing and accusations. I don't think the news would be too popular if all they showed were dolphin or whale rescues or pictures of cute kittens playing. No, what people want to see is blood, mayhem, accidents, and disasters. Everyone wants safe world but, like passing an accident on the freeway, everybody has to slow and rubberneck to see what happened before once again speeding up and trying to make up time.

Persecutions are real. They been going on since the time of Jesus, and even before. Christians in the Middle East, parts of Africa and other places suffer real persecution: the very real potential of torture, mutilation, or death because of their faith. Christians in the United States, some of them anyway, seem to feel that not having everyone agree with them, and not doing things their way consists of persecution. Of course, they speak out freely about it and return to their safe homes and safe neighborhoods without worrying too much that some militia is going to come and mow them all down like the lawn care company does their front yard every week.

Unfortunately, persecution does exist in this country. In many places a person being of a difference race, culture, orientation or religious identification, makes them a target for others who see them as evil and seek to further marginalize or lock them away as undesirables, even if they are done no wrong at all. I wonder if Jesus had what is called a " rush to judgment" in mind when he talked about persecutions and people turning against even members of their own family?

When Jesus finally comes, as he promised he would, it's going to be too late to make any changes, to do any quick paint jobs to cover up the centuries of neglect, a grabbing the hands of people who have been marginalized or ignored in their need, and everybody singing "Kumbaya" as if it everything were totally fine, equal and peaceful. There will not be time to rush out and do the acts of kindness that should have been done long ago. There will be time to apologize, to make restitution, to make right the wrongs that have been ignored for so long. Stones will come down, not one will be left standing on top of another, and there will be no place to hide.

We look to Jesus to come and put all things right. We know it, we believe it, and we expect it. Meanwhile, here are wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, all kinds of natural catastrophes, and all kinds of human-caused catastrophes. We may try to pat ourselves on the back for what we have accomplished, but then we want to rest on our laurels for a while before making any other serious attempts. Besides, Jesus will straighten it all out when the Second Coming gets here.

We may be waiting for Jesus, but we are also wasting time. We cannot operate out of fear, but neither can we operate out of complacency. When Jesus comes back he is not going to compliment the pretty stones and monuments, the nice gated communities, the well-run businesses, and the lavish lifestyles of many of his followers. No, he's going to see children dying of preventable diseases, the mothers who walk for miles to get even semi-clean water, twigs and branches to help their households survive, and men who have watched their livestock and crops dry from lack of water. Guess which ones Jesus will gather to himself first?

Instead of wringing our hands and bemoaning what a terrible world this is, Jesus is telling us to endure but also to work to make the world a welcome mat for Jesus rather than a massive re--creation project for him to do. We are expected to do a lot of the work to prepare for that Second Coming, whenever it is. Since we don't know when that will be, it's our duty to act as if it were tomorrow and be all ready, just in case..

We have a lot of work to do, because Jesus is not going to be on a sightseeing trip when he returns.

Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Beneath your
we take refuge
Theotokos  Our
petitions do not de-
spise in time of trouble
but from danger
rescue us,
Only Holy, on-
ly Blessed. --  Earliest known prayer to the Theotokos, (ca. 250 CE)*

You probably wouldn't have paid much attention to her if you had walked in the marketplace or to the well were a family's water was drawn. Like millions and millions of other young women, people knew her by her family, but she was just another face in the crowd when it came to anything else. The most we know about her is that she was obedient, trusting, and able to make life altering choices based on that obedience and trust despite what it might do to not just her own reputation, but to that of her family, not to mention her impending marriage. Still, she made a choice that changed the world.

Mary got her first title from the Archangel Gabriel, who, called her "Full of grace." This was when she made her big choice, to accept that God would give her a son before she was even married or even living with her espoused in a normal marital  relationship. She acquired a number of titles, but this was the first, her sign of dedication to God. She was raised to be a devout person, and if God asked something of her as God did to prophets and kings, her response must be the same as theirs: "Here am I."

Over the centuries, Mary acquired a number of titles to try to explain what exactly her role in in salvation history had been or how she was perceived by faithful believers. She has been called Queen of Angels, Queen of Heaven, Immaculate, Blessed Virgin, Our Lady with any number of appendixes such as Perpetual Help and Peace. For uncounted millions of people, she is a mediatrix, an intercessor who receives prayers and supplications and adds her prayers to those she receives.

One of her most widely accepted titles is Theotokos, a Greek word meaning "God bearer"  and which gives honor to her as the one who carried God the Son in the flesh. It is by this name that she is widely known particularly Eastern Orthodox churches, although Roman Catholics and Anglicans also use the term. She is seen as a mediator between earth and heaven, and many feel that "If all else fails, ask Mother."

August 15 is celebrated as the Feast of Mary the Virgin, but in Eastern Orthodoxy, it is also known as the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin, the day she "fell asleep" and was taken, body, soul and spirit, into heaven as redeemed, a sign that there is hope for all who, as Mary did, "magnify the Lord." In Anglican circles, though, the day celebrates her virginity (which is not always seen as perpetual) and her acceptance of God's plan for her.

Mary was the only person in the gospels who was a part of Jesus' life from his conception to his death and resurrection, yet we see only glimpses of her in his adulthood. Her place was in the background for the most part. At the wedding in Cana, however, when the wine was running short and the family faced mortification at a lack of replacement, she asked her son to do the impossible. He said it wasn't time for him to do things like that, but Mary simply turned to the servants and said, "Do what he tells you." Sure enough, the water became wine. I wonder – did the people at the wedding feast realize that the most  excellent wine they were drinking was the greatest vintage that ever existed on the face of the earth?

Mary as Theotokos, the God bearer, was the one who carried God in the flesh within her body. It gives her a special place. But if you think about it, we are all God bearers in the sense that we carry the spirit of God within us as well as the mark of adoption by virtue of our baptism. Who is to say that the first breath we took was not the breath of God directly? It seems children carry God much better than most adults. They believe, they trust, and, mostly anyway, try to be obedient. They have been known to whisper to newborn brothers and sisters, asking to tell them about God and the angels, because they had begun to forget and the newborn could remind them.

The God bearer within each of us needs cultivation. It  needs to be a visible sign of our commitment and our gratitude, not to mention our trust and obedience. We are told that the early Christians could be known by the love they showed each other, and that love is the result of being a God bearer. It is not an easy job, any more than being pregnant is an easy one. There are aches, pains, and discomfort, but also an inward joy and expectation.

So today we celebrate Mary, whether we only hear about her only at Christmas and Easter and maybe if the preacher decides to preach on the miracle at Cana, or whether she is a daily presence in our personal and corporate pieties and devotions. We are encouraged by the church to emulate her trust and obedience, but in our personal devotions we can also find courage and strength in making hard decisions.

If I say a rosary or just look at the tiny copy of the icon of the Annunciation that is on the corkboard over my desk, Mary has become a more important part of my life, not just for her meekness and obedience but for her courage, strength, and her devotion. Maybe one day I'll get to the point where if all else fails, I'll just ask Mother.

*Found at Trisagion Films, accessed 8/9/15. Line breaks correspond to the English translation from the Koine.

Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, August 15, 2015.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ But not have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. -- Romans 10:13-17

It is said that everyone has a calling, whether or not they are religious people. The saint we commemorate today found not just a calling to the priesthood, but to organization, preaching, education, and motivation. That's a lot to expect from any one person, but Dominic de Guzman was not just a totally ordinary person. He accomplished a lot during his life, and his influence still remains.

Dominic was born in Castille, Spain, in 1170. He discovered his calling to the priesthood and served in several positions of increasing authority over the next few years. Chosen to accompany a bishop to France to a territory which was inhabited by the Albigensians, a heretical sect that believed in dualism, a Lord of Good and a Lord of Evil. Dominic's conversation with the Albigensian innkeeper on first night in town  created not just a convert to orthodoxy, but a recognition for Dominic of the value of discussion, persuasion and logic among those who he had come to evangelize.

He was a gentle man, and is said that he had such a kind and gentle way of administering rebuke that people left his presence feeling happy rather than downcast. That's quite a thing to say about anybody. It certainly seemed to work in his favor.

The mission of which Dominic was part was not totally successful and was interrupted by an assassination, a death, and a five-year war. The "war" against the Cathars (another name for Albigensians) was actually a part of the movement called the episcopal Inquisition, which had begun about 1174 and was aimed specifically at the Albigensians and it is unclear as to whether or not Dominic took an active part.

Dominic had applied to the Pope for permission to form a new religious order in 1215. That request was denied but another was granted a year later. By this time Dominic had about 17 followers and with those followers he took a very bold step. Rather than keeping them clustered in the same community in the same area, he did what Jesus did. He sent them out two by two to establish foundations in France and Italy, notably in Paris and Bologna.

Dominic firmly believed that the way to evangelize and convert was by persuasion and logic rather than force. His preachers were to establish schools of theology near universities and centers of learning. They were to live rather austere lives, including simple habits and going about barefoot, somewhat resembling the most strict subgroup of the Albigensians. They were sent to spread the message and evangelize among those considered heretics.

Dominic established new communities in Spain and was honored by the pope by being given the title of  The Pope's Theologian, a post which has been filled by Dominicans since the death of Dominic in 1221. With the passage of time, however, some of Dominic's spiritual sons forgot the lessons of gentleness and persuasion by words only and began to favor more forcible means. The tortures were less for the soul of the individual being tormented than for the example to those outside the torture chamber. This was the Pope's inquisition and targeted not only Albigensians but other groups such as Muslims and Jews. 

Violence for the sake of conversion is never a really good idea. People tend to resist being forced to do anything, especially something as personal as changing their religion. Even conversion in the face of danger is not considered a true conversion, and people who used that way to trying to save their lives and the lives of their families often found themselves in the same predicament as if they had never converted at all.

Persuasion gives the opportunity to witness what a change of life can mean. There's truth in the old proverb, "You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar." Perhaps Dominic never heard that truism, but he seemed to use it as his model of evangelism.

There are many times in our lives where we are told what to do and know we have no recourse. It is a very hard thing to accept, and, as the Monty Python skit put it, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Inquisition was not a new thing, just perhaps a new name for the process.

Christians facing death in the Coliseum, the beatings and tortures followed by crucifixions, and other torments from the earliest days of Christianity fit the pattern of attempted forced conversion. It has never been easy to retain one's faith when facing pain or death at the hands of another.  If those in the Coliseum had never heard of Jesus, their lives would have never been put in jeopardy. If they had not believed, their lives might not have been a bed of roses, but they would not have faced imminent death on a day-to-day basis. The Albigensians had their own beliefs which the church had declared heretical, and so the church decided to forcibly change them, no matter if it killed them in the process.

Persecution still goes on all around the world. Torture, injury, and death are sometimes the result of the attempt to stop what another group considers heresy. There does not seem to be much room for persuasion and logic, only emotion and action. What are we doing to encourage such behavior? Where we tried persuasion, even very persistent persuasion, rather than guns, swords, or other instruments of barbarity. There are people who need to hear the message, but can't get beyond the behavior of those who bring the message.

People will not listen to a message and respond to it well if the message is not persuasive and the examples of living the message are not clear. The old saying has it, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Vinegar may add tang to a dish -- or a conversation -- but too much ruins the whole thing. The inquisition was really a case of excessive vinegar while Dominic's approach was much more palatable.

In this time where people seem to be shouting past each other without anyone listening to anybody else, perhaps we need a dose of Dominic's wisdom and practice. His mission was to proclaim to those who had not heard and teach them to call on one who could be believed in.

I think Paul's message to the Romans was logical and persuasive to Dominic. Maybe we should try it for ourselves?

Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, August 8, 2015.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Man from Arimathea

Psalm 16:5-11
Genesis 23:3-9,17-19
James 1:17-18
Luke 23:50-56

When I discovered reading, I quickly ran out of my own books so I rummaged through my brother's meager library (he wasn't much of a reader). I discovered the Hardy Boys, Robin Hood and King Arthur and his court. These were not comic books but real books where paragraphs were more than one sentence long, and the language was somewhat more grown up. I ate them up. Somehow the ones that stuck with me were book with the Arthurian legends which was written mainly for boys but which were about chivalry and the rescue of maidens, something every girl could dream about.

As I got older I learned there was more to this King Arthur story than what I had read as a child. I had read about Merlin and Guinevere and Lancelot and the Lady of the Lake, which were all very well and good, and I also read about the Grail, supposedly the chalice from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper. Then I found Joseph of Arimathea and his connection with whole wonderful tale.

Joseph is said to have been an uncle of Mary, Jesus' mother, and therefore a kinsman of Jesus himself. We don't hear about him in the Gospels until Jesus is crucified when Joseph appeared, asking the authorities for Jesus's body. He took the corpse to his own brand-new tomb where Jesus would lie. Most crucified criminals were left hanging on their places of execution until they had become nothing but bones as an example to the people of the price of criminal behavior. If Joseph were a kinsman, it would have made sense for him to ask to bury Jesus for the family's sake, if nothing else. Then, having buried Jesus, Joseph disappeared from the scene and is not heard from again. That's where legend takes over.

Legends are like midrash; A bare-bones story is fleshed out with details and episodes to make the tale more complete and to answer possible questions. According to the legend, Joseph had interests in some British tin mines in Cornwall. He made periodic trips back and forth from to check on those interests. It said that on at least one journey he took his great nephew Jesus along with him, a possible journey William Blake commemorated in his poem called  "Jerusalem."

Those who were crucified were often left on the instrument of their death, being food for scavenger birds and whims of the weather. Was Joseph a known Christian?  If so, he risked his reputation and possibly even his life to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus so quickly. Now if he were a relative, especially one of some standing, it might have been easier for him than it would have been for Jesus's family who were relative unknowns. However it happened, after his good deed, Joseph disappeared from the story but legends went on.

It said that Joseph left Jerusalem on a ship taking with him and some followers, possibly even Mary Magdalene.  Mary Magdalene's story is that she disembarked in France, and lived out her life there where she was revered, as was her daughter.

Joseph continued his journey and landed in Cornwall. He disembarked at a place close to what we now call Glastonbury, then known as Avalon. Joseph pushed his staff into the ground and from it rose a thorn tree, like the tree that had produced the materials used to make the crown of thorns that Jesus was forced to wear. The tree itself grew and flourished and bloomed each Christmas for 2,000 years, enduring several attempts to destroy it until it was chopped down and the limbs strewn about by person or persons unknown in 1991. A rare variety, the only way to propagate it was by cuttings. Some of these have been successfully raised, flourishing not only around Glastonbury but in our own country where a Glastonbury Thorn tree grows on the grounds of the National Cathedral in Washington DC.

Another part of the legend of Joseph is that he had brought the Holy Grail, the chalice of Jesus, when he came to Cornwall. Joseph hid it, and people have been looking for that particular treasure ever since. One of the sights in Glastonbury is called Joseph's Well where the Grail was supposedly hidden.  Did Joseph really bring the chalice with him when he left Jerusalem? Was it even a chalice? Some claims are made that the Grail was actually the daughter of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, while others say it was just a plain wooden cup which has probably disintegrated by now. Yet others think of it as a finely wrought gold or silver vessel, suitable for such an important event as the Last Supper. King Arthur's knights were searching for the Grail as sacred quests, journeys of faith in search of the holiest thing in the world and which only the purest and bravest could find.

What I learned from Joseph is the value of perhaps not loudly proclaiming that you are a Christian or a follower of Christ, but rather by actions doing the thing that would be most pleasing to God. I still keep coming back to the thought of  Joseph's risk in asking for the body of Jesus. To even claim the body, much less be able to bury it, was an act of kindness, and also, I believe to bring peace to the family as well as to honor someone he had come to love respect and follow in his own life.

Joseph of Arimathea is one of my favorite saints. He didn't look for a place of glory, at least in the story he didn't, and when he went back to Cornwall, if he did go back there, he very possibly became one of the founders of Christianity in Britain. Where the Roman Empire went during the time of Jesus' ministry and even after his death, Christianity went along with the army and the traders. The isolated Christians became small communities and the small communities became towns and cities as time went by. Joseph could have begun the process in Glastonbury which ended up with an abbey known in the time of the Arthurian legends, but which was destroyed later. Some ruins still remain, reminders of those ancient times which, as in the words to first stanza of "Jerusalem" reads:

And did those feet in ancient times,
Walk on England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

It's something to think about. It is also something to remember, when it comes time to take a risk in a good cause. It doesn't have to be a grand showy thing, but it does require some courage and humility. No armor or magical swords are needed either.

Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, August 1, 2015.