By D. Thomas

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by people.

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: “He trusts the LORD, let the LORD rescue him.’

“…I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

“Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and feet.

“I can count my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing” [PSALM 22: 6-18].

The Gospel of John opens with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” ( 1:1).

God: Creator of Nouns, Sustaining with Verbs, “spoke” or maybe sang, and set vibration going; combinations of vibrations, waves waving at various frequencies, created beauty and by this verbing generated the particulates and forces, as String Theory suggests.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” [JOHN 1:14a].

(You may not believe any of the scriptures, any of the stories or records in the book– but if you can read it with at least the attention you would give to reading and noting the details of symbols, images, themes, as you’d read Four Quartets, Ulysses, Women of Bakkos, or Les Mis, unabridged, you might learn truths the way one learns from great poetry and literature.)

Christ Jesus, Logos, Word, man and star stuff– was born into a milieu where Rome ruled distant, scattered, desert places, defeated kingdoms and territories; Rome-friendly Jews ran the Jewish provinces, under Roman Governors; Roman soldiers stationed out in Judea were the local cops and jailors and executioners. Crucifixion was sentenced mostly to political or social agitators, though the Cecil B. DeMille image is of roads lined with man-bearing crosses. When men have wage-paid physical power over other, poorer, men and their families, they too often become brutal– scroll through any news source, look around the United States and watch the smart-phone recordings of cops killing suspects here in our twenty-first century for evidence of this.

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” [JOHN 1:9-10].

The people praying for the Messiah imagined a great King who would free Judea from Rome; they did not expect a carpenter or poor rabbi. Jesus came, correcting traditional interpretations of Scripture at local synagogues in small towns, hanging out with fishermen, traveling by foot or fishing boat, touching unclean, sick, blind people, telling stories. They did not expect a Savior to die.

We are in the Christian season of Lent, the preparatory period established by the early church for new believers wanting to be baptized, and for believers to ready their hearts for Easter, after the Friday of Jesus’ death on the cross. People often “give up” treats, extras (chocolate, soda, screen time), or fast–from meat, from fat, from meals. I don’t know, I didn’t think of that much this year: it seems like the world has been in a long Lenten season already, and it feels like we must be at least at the Thursday, in this world.

I do scroll Facebook and Google Discover; recently, within a Facebook post, someone said that, religion is to make you feel good, and– I don’t recall the entire comment, but I immediately jumped to cry out, No, it’s not!

Although it is about Love (Love Itself came down to teach us), the Way of Christ Jesus is anything but a “feel-good religion”!

The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of man’s heart. There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation lies open before his eyes. And it is to him that we must all give an account of ourselves.” [HEBREWS 4:12-13]

From the beginning, people who proclaimed Christ were arrested, jailed, beaten, persecuted in Jerusalem, Ephasus, Rome. They were taught to share their goods, control their lusts and tempers, pray for their enemies and instead of “standing their ground” with sword or weapon or fighting back,to turn the other cheek.

The first Christ-following martyr was Stephen, who, says the book of Acts Of The Apostles, was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” [ACTS 6:5], and ” full of God’s grace and power” [6:8].

For proclaiming Christ Jesus in Jerusalem and before the Jewish Sanhedrin, he was tried and stoned to death; Saul, not yet struck and converted into Saint Paul, witnessed Stephen’s death, and was zealously arresting Christians himself.

Stephen, ‘“full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ ” [ACTS 7:55-56]

This is the only place where Christ is said to be standing, rather than seated at the right hand of God.

James, the elder Son of Zebedee, one of the three disciples who were closest to Jesus, and his three witnesses, was put to death on the order of King Herod, recorded in Acts 12: 2.

The early Christians in Rome were persecuted and thrown into lion’s dens, famously by Nero, and met in catacombs. The colorful roll of Catholic Saints is a list of martyrs who were executed for holding fast to their faith and testimony.

Not all Christian martyrs have been killed by non-Christians: think of Joan of Arc. William Tyndale, who translated and printed the first English-language Bible. Anti-Nazi Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a German concentration camp; Martin Luther King Jr. (It is no secret that “The Church” and “Christians” have waged wars, sacked and pillaged, raped women, bought, sold, and flogged slaves, and committed all the catalog of killing.)

In the 21st– and this is an easy search on any search engine, one can read lists: Kim Sun-il, a South Korean interpreter and missionary, in Iraq, 2004; Ghorbon Tourant, and Iranian convert hosting a house church, in Iran, 2005; Sing Jong-nan, North Korean defector, killed in Pyongyang Prison in 2008, and Gayle Williams, an aid worker shot in Kabul, Afghanistan, 2008; Pakistani Clement Shahbaz Bhatti in Islamabad, 2011. In 2015, twenty-one Coptic Christians, construction workers, were kidnapped and beheaded by the State of Iraq and the Levant, in Libya.

Blessed are you when you are persecuted and reviled for my name’s sake” [MATT. 5:11].

The Way of Jesus is about Transformation, change from the cellular and unconscious levels, out. Within the Gospels are many hard sayings, and a lot of people who followed his entourage for the healings, the exorcisms, the miracles and signs and the food, left when he warned of the cost, the meaning of following in earnest.

“Take up your cross and follow me” [MATT. 16:24].

Christian belief is that Jesus had the power of “God” because he was “God;” he used his power to heal the blind, deaf, lame, sick, hungry, demon-possessed, epileptic, leprous, insane, and even dead ,but when he was a man he lived as a man, and did not use power to warn or punish or provoke fear. In his most angry and most desperate moments, he held back, remained meek.

The scene of his temper told in all four Gospels is wonderful for Jesus’ restraint:

It was almost time for the Passover Festival, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. There in the Temple he found men selling cattle,sheep, and pigeons, and also the moneychangers sitting at their tables. So he made a whip from cords and drove all the animals out of the Temple, both the sheep and the cattle; he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins; and he ordered the men who sold the pigeons, ‘Take them out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’… The Jewish authorities came back at him with a question, ‘What miracle can you perform to show us that you have the right to do this?’ Jesus answered, ‘Tear down this Temple, and in three days I will build it again.'” [JOHN 2:13-19]

No thunderbolts or lightning.

John’s Gospel tells us that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God” [13:3]

(Again: though I believe, I don’t insist that you, reading, do, but hope you can read the story as story and open to the truths one learns from antique literature, as from Ovid, Sophocles, Shakespeare…)

Jesus rode into Jerusalem the High Holy week of Passover, knowing that at this time, he must turn himself over to the authorities and powers of that city and province. He wept over the city– the people of the city, all the people who had lost and do lose their ways and don’t even know to call out or where to look for light anymore and so are blind.

On the Thursday night , the evening of the Passover Feast, Jesus and his innermost circle of “the Twelve” ate their last meal together, including Judas; this was the night that he was arrested by the Jewish guards in Gethsemane, and began the trials that led to his being executed for blasphemy.

..“…so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him…

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.'” [JOHN 13:4-15]

Washing someone’s crusty, sandaled, city- and road-dirty feet was one of the filthiest jobs there was, which the lowest of the low slaves or servants performed. Can anyone picture a robber baron, or financier or dictator–a Henry Tudor, a J.P. Morgan, a Rothschild, a Putin, changing a diaper, cleaning up puke, washing feet?

Offer your body as a living sacrifice” [ROMANS 12:1].

After dinner, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and wait.

He prayed that if it was possible, he could escape the pain and death to come? But he said “Thy will, not mine,” and he was obedient to the No, it must be this way for their sake. I do not know why it had to be this way for our sake, but through it, Jesus, punished like a traitor, experienced the worst beatings of the day, the most painful, public execution; he was insulted, mocked, spit on, pushed around, humiliated and hurt– before he even started the walk to Golgotha with his wooden cross. Like the two with him, he had to carry the beam he was going to be spiked to. .

Then Jesus said to the chief priests and the officers of the Temple guard and the elders who had come there to get him, ‘Did you have to come with swords and clubs, as though I were an outlaw? I was with you in the Temple every day, and you did not try to arrest me. But this is your hour to act, when the power of darkness rules.’ “

Before the last meal and the arrest and trial,

“Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The one who loves his life will lose it, while the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

” ‘Now my heart is troubled — and what shall I say? Shall I say,”Father, do not let this hour come upon me”/ But that is why I came– so that I might go through this hour of suffering. Father, bring glory to your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will gorify it again.’…Jesus said, ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgement on this world; now the prince of the world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” [JOHN 12: 23-32]

Darkness does not have the last word:

“Believe in the light while you have it, so you will be the people of the light.” [JOHN12:36]


Braiding Sweetgrass :Indigenous wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer is a book like a psalm of praise and rejoicing and thanksgiving to the earth, the plants , the spirits, which feed and teach us, and the Great Spirit which gave the Original Instructions. The plants communicate with each other, share sugar and water and nitrogen so that the various species thrive and flower. The book tells about reciprocity: Nature, Earth, feeds us, and will thrive if we plant and tend and harvest, use, and if we give thanks, we and our habitat thrive. There is enough for all if we steward and if we do not waste or lay waste, if we raise and do not raze, if we do not take more than we need.

Planet Earth was designed to offer up enough seed and grain, fruit and grass and root to feed all, and fish and flesh and fowl eat and are eaten, and skins and bones and fibers can be used for shelters and tools and clothes, and there could be plenty.

Until now, maybe. Humans’ psychological and intellectual separation from “nature” or “the rest of nature”– which we eat, drink, breathe, process, are and need, to live, and industry, stripping and digging and detonating, mining and smelting and burning and filling skies and waters and soils with polluting by-products, may have gone on too long, enroached too far for balance, for earthly provision– the climate scientists say we are in crisis now, Antarctic ice shelves are melting, people and birds have been dying in road-melting summer heats, there is famine around the globe, and hunger in every nation, storms, fires, and floods destroying cities, islands, homes. The humans chugging over vast factory farms and clear-cut forests must not know to give thanks, to respect or appreciate the wonderful life-filled ground, the plants and microbes that fuel and feed all.

I think that we need Divine intervention to heal World–our mother earth, the garden, us– which is the promise of the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

In the chapter “Learning the Language of Animacy,” Kemmerer points out that, as science speaks a language of objects, “out there” –or in the lab conditions– to be observed and measured and predicted through quantum mechanics or particle physics, and the English language is based on nouns {sentence subjects verb, or perform verbs), American Indigenous languages such as Potowatomi and Anishinaabe use over two times more verbs per noun than English; different verb forms describe things that are alive than those not alive. They see as alive: trees, rocks, mountains, ponds, streams, lakes, rivers, valleys, grasses; the only things considered non-alive things are man-made; the God-made beings are beings; selves, even persons; there are human people and tree people, and a lake is a verb– water being in the form of a lake now, if I understand correctly. One would not ask “What is that?” of an apple or a deer, but “Who is that?”

The Potawatomi verb “to be”, for living beings, is Yawe.

The modern, industrial/post-industrial objectification of and separation from nature is not of Yahweh, and is not Christian. I fact, Levitical law included days of Sabbath and years of Jubilee: each seventh day, the households including servants and slaves, and the working animals, and the fields all had days of rest; in the seventh, Jubilee, year, fields were to lie fallow, to rest and recover:

For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather the crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you–” [LEVITICUS 25:3-6].

You may ask, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops/’ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.” [LEV. 25:20-22.

(Jesus said he was the Living Water; the vine; the Bread of Life; “Take and eat, this is my body…drink this, this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you...”)

The languages of owning and using living beings is of Traders, Retailers, Kings, Accountants, and Capitalists.

Empires– Roman, British, Spanish, American Industrial, Russian, are built on Money, Guns, and Plentiful Cheap Labor to extract and work resources into commodities for sale for the owners’ profit.

Invaders, conquerors, colonizers overrun the territories and provinces, sack the cities, dynamite the mountains, dam the rivers, send young and able-bodied and Mighty Men to war to acquire and defend oil, gold, uranium, plutonium, diamonds, poppies– slaves, and sea ports, railroads, passages to oceans.

Jesus did not come with military might, when he was Being being a human being, but with stories and talk of the Kingdom of God being like a mustard seed. He invited any and all to the Feast. He was born to a poor girl in a barn. He did not call upon the Hosts of Angels to sweep in and lead Jerusalem against Rome, or even to rescue him from his death.

On the very cross he cried out, Mark writes, ” ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ –which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” [15: 34], which is the first line of Psalm 22, quoted as my opening.

But Darkness does not have the last word, even now.

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”[JOHN 12:46]

Friday, he died. Then there was Saturday, and then Sunday came, and He was not dead.

” ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty.'” [REV. 1:8]

Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold! I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades,” [REV.1:17-18].

(Let me quickly put in, before the verse, that he meant: such as the women at the tomb, and, about baptism, these verses do not say “and no one else will.”)

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; He rebuked them for their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved'” [MARK 16:14-16a].

For He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

“From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him– may your hearts live forever!

…Future generations will be told about the LORD. They will proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn– for He has done it” [PSALM 22: 24-26, 30-31].

Love is a Verb.