About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."

2017/05/18

Rutgers' Resistance Bureau and Jesus' Healings

Every Tuesday evening a small, yet vibrant group of members, friends and concerned neighbors meets in our church. It started shortly after the presidential inauguration, actually, after the first presidential order against immigrants and refugees. We call this group “Resistence Bureau” and we meet to support each other, and synchronize our actions; plan telephone calls and letters to our elected representatives and share news about marches and street protests. (Those interested can join our Facebook Group - just let me know).
     Most recently one of our main concerns, besides the obscure presidential relationship with Russia, has been health care. Barbara Smaller, a member of our group and Newyorker cartoonist, prepared for us this poignant postcard. We plan to send it to the government and elected representatives as one of our ways of voicing our concern about the destruction of the Affordable Healthcare.
     It is appropriate for people of faith to be advocates for health care. Because health care is not only a political and economic issue, health care is also a quintessentially moral and religious matter. Just look into the Gospels! Again and again we hear about Jesus performing miraculous healings.
     People get often preoccupied with the miraculous nature of Jesus’ healings but that is only epiphenomenon, it is just a part of their historical context. The primary purpose of healings was to show that God does, and how does God care for people in pain. If we read those stories carefully we are led to realize that, although Jesus miraculously heals suffering individuals, the entire communities and their attitudes, ideologies and prejudices are those who are being challenged and treated at the same time.
     From anthropology we know that true healers really never treat just individuals, but their broader context, their families, communities, even the environment. All of this speaks directly to our current situation when healthcare for the most vulnerable is under attack for selfish and shortsighted ideological reasons.
     Last week we looked at spiritual maps and how they help us to navigate our lives. This Sunday we will look at the Map that Jesus drew for us and how it translates to our times. Healing is unthinkable outside of a loving community and a caring society.

2017/05/11

Spiritual Map Making


How do you find your way around the City or around country lines when you travel to unknown places? Most likely you use Google maps on your cellphone or some navigation system in your car.
      I still like old fashion maps and I use them occasionally especially when I want to get a larger picture and understand the broader landscape. On the other hand I got used to Google maps, it is so convenient, fast and increasingly reliable. It offers turn-by-turn directions and even provides construction and accident alerts while immediately suggesting alternative routes.
      Now imagine that a similar navigation system has been available for thousands of years to native people in Australia. They also have had oral turn-by-turn navigation which even has suggested alternative routes for different situations and have been able to keep up to date for centuries.
      Of course, they did not use any satellites, computers or cell-networks. Their technology was their religion, mythology and especially their songs. Their traditional songs led them turn-by-turn from hill to ravine and from tree to ridge sometimes for 300 miles and several weeks long journeys through deserted wilderness, bringing them reliably from one essential artesian spring to another. And it clearly worked, they are still here, before Europeans came they survived even thrived in their harsh environment.
      This Sunday we will learn about spiritual mapmaking and how it can help us to navigate not necessarily streets and highways but our lives. We will consider the great importance of the permanently evolving nature of any map. And what kind of direction the Gospel can offer us on our life journeys. It is the Gospel of John which reminds us of Jesus being the way, the truth and the life. Come to rejoice and find hope in spiritual map making. 


2017/04/20

In defense of Thomas

On the first Sunday after Easter we remember doubting or unbelieving Thomas.
According to the gospel of John; When the resurrected Jesus met with his disciples on the third day after crucifixion, Thomas was not with them. When they told him the great news, he did not believe, and wanted to make sure for himself. A week later, the first Sunday after Easter, he was given that opportunity and finally he believed. This is how Thomas got labeled as doubting or unbelieving. It was an unfortunate story with tragic consequences throughout the Christian history.

Firstly) It is almost certain, that the story of unbelieving Thomas got its final form as a part of a score setting between two streams (or schools) of early Christianity. One of those early streams was associated with John, and Thomas was the figurehead of another. In the Bible we have the Gospel of John, the Apocalypse of  John and three letters of John while writings associated with Thomas were censored, and many of them suppressed for millennia. Labeling and libeling Thomas clearly and unfortunately worked. Early Christian streams associated with Thomas disappeared and a substantial part of early Christianity richness and diversity was lost.

Secondly) Another unfortunate consequence of this story was disparaging of doubts and healthy skepticism among Christians. The story of doubting Thomas was often used to control and manipulate minds and doubts of lay people. After the emergence of modern science, which is based on skepticism, critical thinking and search for evidence, this biblical story contributed and justified growing antagonism between faith and science.

This year, this very weekend, on Earth Day we participate in the Science March to protect our fragile planet from the hands of narrow-minded, uneducated nitwits.  It is high time to rehabilitate Thomas, to reintegrate doubt and faith, religion and science. Critical thinking is an integral part of healthy faith.
At Rutgers Church we do not check our brains at the door.

2017/04/12

Radical Easter Hope

Have you ever wondered why resurrection and insurrection sound so similar? And why rising from the dead and uprising share the same original word root? Interestingly, this is not peculiar only to English usage (vocabulary).
     In Biblical Greek these words also share the same roots. In the Greek language resurrection (αναστασις) is closely bound with revolution (επαναστασις) distinguished only by a preposition
επι meaning above. And one word EXEGEIRŌ (εξεγειρω) can be used in the Bible to speak about rising from the dead and in today’s Greek newspaper about uprising.
     The very essence of language is showing us the disruptive nature of the Easter message. Now you also know why the early Christians were viewed with suspicion and why they were persecuted by authorities. They insisted that the convicted and executed "criminal" was alive among them and showed way towards the just and harmonious future. 
     In the very center of our faith is this inseparable hope, which binds together personal hope in death with personal hope in life and even more radically fuses together personal individual hope with the communal hope for equity and justice.
     The early Christians knew it, but then the church spent the better part of 2,000 years forgetting it, hiding it, and suppressing this radical hope.
     If we want to be faithful to Jesus and his resurrection and if we truly want to understand the marvelous message of Easter, we must return to the original roots of words and roots of our hope. We must not separate rising and uprising, the resurrection hope from the insurrection hope.
     This Easter Sunday we will take a butterfly, this beautiful post-biblical metaphor of resurrection, and apply it to our search for personal resurrection hope which is inseparable from radical communal hope of equity and justice.

2017/04/05

Brave not Stupid

A poster from the demonstration on the Central Park West.
Would you know how to organize an illegal demonstration?
      Well, you can learn from Jesus! His Palm Sunday entry to Jerusalem has all the characteristics of a well-organized public protest. Jesus and his disciples lived under what we would call these days a police state and so the preparations for their protest were made quietly and under the radar of authorities. We are told, for instance, that they used prearranged secret dialogue while picking up the donkey making sure that even the messengers did not know the full plan so that no one could spill the beans. All was done to minimize the danger of authorities disrupting the event before it even started. Jesus and his disciples were brave but not stupid, it is as if they followed modern guidelines for grassroots organizing under adverse circumstances.
     I know this strategy first hand from the time of growing up under a totalitarian regime. With good planning a main city square could look at one moment like it looks at any other day and just a minute or so later it can be filled with protestors who emerged from stores, cafes and morphed from what looked like regular pedestrians. Improvised banners, signs and protest props emerge from nowhere, slogans are adopted and quickly perfected before authorities can get their acts together. You see - flash mobs existed long before social media and I can attest that they are an exhilarating experience.
     Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem is one such special flash protest with a powerful message allowing people to participate and dedicate themselves to the vision of the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice, freedom and peace.
     Come this Palm Sunday to join Jesus’ flash mob shouting Hosanna! (Which can be translated - Freedom now!).

2017/03/22

Lithic Pillow

“Are all stones alive?” Asked American ethnologist, Irving Hallowell, to his Native American interlocutor, Alec Keeper, when he noticed that in Ojibwe language stones are grammatically animated (treated as alive). The elder thought about it carefully for some time and then responded, Some are.”
    Some stones are indeed special. They might look like any other stones, but they mark special places and represent special events. In upstate New York, for instance, I was aware of several native American cairns. In my Central European homeland I visited Celtic and some older Megalithic monuments and of course everyone knows Stonehenge and perhaps menhirs of Brittany, Cornwall or Ireland.
    Biblical tradition also mentions special stones infused with deep meaning and significance. Some stones are truly crucial to what is called “salvation history” - core stories of our faith tradition. This Sunday one such stone will open our mind for the deeper understanding of sanctuary as a place of rest, place of protection and divine assurance. Come this Sunday to rejoice in the divine message conveyed by one special biblical lithic pillow. 

(Correction: in the first paragraph I originally named the Ojibwe elder as William Berens, who was one of the main Hallowell's sources, but Alec Keeper was the one who made the famous comment about rocks.)
   


Navigation Heiau (Maka o Hule) on Kohala coast of Hawai'i. 

2017/03/08

A church in the wall

In this church I preached my first sermon. The history of this picturesque church in Prague goes all the way back to 1178. As you can see even from this small picture, it is a unique and bizarre structure, over centuries it was rebuilt many times and in many different styles - Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Throughout its long history it was a parish church, a seat of radical Reformation, it was deconsecrated and turned into a warehouse and apartment building with some stores, before it was reconstructed and made into a Protestant church for university students. But for most of its history this church was part of the Prague city wall - hence its name St. Martin in the Wall. The south wall of the church was integrated into the fortification of the Old Town of Prague. Although the church wall was hardly thicker than the rest of the city wall, it was, nevertheless, its safest part. Noone would ever dare to attack the city through the church or even enter the church armed and in hostility!  This historic little church is in fact an embodiment of the very old and revered concept of sanctuary. In Lent this year we will talk, learn and celebrate sanctuaries - these important sacred spaces. Why we need them, how we can use them and why we must protect them.