Sunday, August 25, 2013

Becoming A Child of Humanity (8/25/13)

Becoming a Child of Humanity
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

August 25, 2013

Gospel of Mary  4:1-7
When the Blessed One had said these things
he greeted them all, saying,
“Peace be with you!
Bear my peace within yourselves!
Beware that no one lead you astray saying,
‘Look over here!’ Or
‘Look over there!’
For the Child of Humanity is within you!
Follow it!
Those who seek it will find it.
Go then and proclaim the good news of the realm. 
Do not lay down any rules beyond
what I determined for you,
nor give a law like the lawgiver,
lest you be confined by it.”
When he had said this, he departed.

Gospel of Mary           6:1-4; 9:16-31
Peter said to Mary, “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of the women.  Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember, which you know and we do not, nor have we heard them.”  Mary answered and said, “What is hidden from you I will tell you.”  And she began to say to them these words….

“When the Soul had left the third Power desolate, it went upward and saw the fourth Power.  It had seven forms.  The first form is Darkness; the second Desire; the third Ignorance; the fourth Eagerness for Death; the fifth is the Realm of the Flesh; the sixth is the Foolish Wisdom of the Flesh; the seventh is Wrathful Wisdom.  These are the seven Powers of Wrath.  They asked the Soul, ‘Where are you coming from, human-killer, and where are you going you place-destroyer?’  The Soul answered and said, ‘What rules me has been slain, and what turns me has been destroyed, and my desire has been filled, and ignorance has died.  In a world I was released from a world, and in a mold from a higher mold, and from the chain of forgetfulness which is temporal.  From this hour on, at the time of the season of the generations, I will rest in silence.’”

After Mary said this, she was silent, since it was to this point the Savior had spoken with her.

               Gospel of Mary 10:1-15
But Andrew responded and said to the brothers and sisters, “Say what you will about what she has said, I do not believe that the Savior said this, for certainly these teachings are strange ideas.”  Peter responded and spoke concerning these same things.  He questioned them about the Savior, “Did he really speak with a woman without our knowing about it?  Are we to turn around and all listen to her?  Did he choose her over us?

Then Mary wept and said to Peter, “My brother, Peter, what are you thinking?  Do you think that I have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am telling lies about the Savior?”  Levi responded and said to Peter, “Peter, you have always been an angry person.  Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries.  But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you, then, to reject her?  Surely the Savior’s knowledge of her is trustworthy. That is why he loved her more than us. 

Rather, let us be ashamed.  We should clothe ourselves with the perfect Human, acquire it for ourselves as he commanded us, and proclaim the good news, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Savior said.”

After he had said these things, they started going to teach and proclaim.

We are spending a few weeks looking at early Christian scripture that did not make it into the New Testament, at least originally.   Now, thanks to Professor Hal Taussig and a council of religious leaders and scholars, we have A New New Testament.   Many newly discovered works, such as theGospel of Mary, are in A New New Testament as scripture.  

Yes, Mary.  The central character of this gospel is a woman.   It contains sayings from Jesus that are not in the canonical gospels.   That should be intriguing enough.   Where has this gospel been hiding? 

For about fifteen hundred years it had been hiding in a niche in a wall in a Christian burial site in Akhmim, Egypt.   The Gospel of Mary is one of four texts found bound together in a papyrus bound book, a codex, wrapped in feathers.   It is called the Berlin Codex, because it was taken to Berlin after it was discovered in 1896.  The other three texts in this codex are theApocryphon of John, the Sophia of Jesus Christ, and what is called an epitome or a summary of the Act of Peter.

The codex dates to the late fourth or early fifth century.   All of these texts are in Coptic, possibly originally written in Greek.    This codex wasn’t translated until 1955.  It hasn't been until recently that the Gospel of Mary in particular has generated interest.   An excellent book by Harvard professor Karen King, called the Gospel of Mary of Magdala, provides a translation and commentary.   

The Gospel of Mary has been literally out of sight and out of mind for most of Christian history.   Still we don’t have the complete text.   Several pages are missing and we may never find a complete manuscript.  It is pretty amazing that we have what we do have. 

Who is this Mary?  We don’t know.  Probably the character is Mary Magdalene.  Is it the historical Mary Magdalene, if there was such a person?  No.   Karen King dates this work to around 120, which is about the same time that some scholars, including Marcus Borg, are dating the Gospel of Luke as well as some other New Testament works such as the letters to Timothy.   A date of 120 puts it nearly a century past the time of the historical Jesus.    It couldn’t have been written by the historical Mary.   Nor is it about the historical Mary.  It is also very Greek.

The Gospel of Mary is like the other gospels, such as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that are attributed to contemporaries of Jesus or Paul but were not written by them.    Just to be clear, the Gospel of Mary is fiction.  But don’t let that dissuade you.  The canonical gospels, at least as far as I can tell, are all fiction, too.    There may have been an historical Jesus that can be extracted from the gospels.  There may be historical kernels hiding in there, but the gospels are nonetheless narrative creations.    

Even if there was an historical Jesus, the gospels are not about him, they are imaginative creations about Jesus the son of God, a literary character.They want to tell theological stories.   They want to talk about the meaning of life and they use Jesus and other characters to tell their truths. 

What is interesting is what these texts say.  What in their narrative, fictive forms are they saying about life and how to go about living it?  These characters, Jesus, Mary, Andrew, Levi, and Peter are literary characters used to tell a truth.   

I say all of this to level the field.  Just because a book is in the Bible it doesn’t mean it is more true or more  "historical" than these other documents.    In these early centuries as today, some scriptures were chosen as favorites by some over others.    Those texts not chosen needed to be preserved and hidden.  Fortunately, for us, the political losers buried some of their texts so we were able to discover them, translate them, and put them on the internet today.  

I should also say, that the Gospel of Mary is not some lost romance story of Mary Magdalene who has children with Jesus and runs off to France or whatever.   Those kinds of stories are fabrications as well.    What we have is a text in which a character named Mary is a disciple of Jesus, and his closest disciple.  There is nothing sexual or physical.  This is intellectual and spiritual.  

In a nutshell, the Gospel of Mary begins with a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples.    The disciples are asking Jesus questions.  He answers their questions about matter and sin, then  he gives them a blessing and tells them that 

“The Child of Humanity is within you.  Follow it!”   

He tells them to proclaim this good news and don’t burden people with rules.  Then he leaves, presumably for heaven.  This is a post-resurrection appearance.

The disciples start crying.  How can they possibly succeed in proclaiming this good news when even he wasn’t spared?    If they killed him, what will happen to us?    Then Mary steps up and comforts them telling them that his grace will be with them and they can be bold because he has made them human beings.

Then Peter asks Mary, since she was more loved by the savior than the other women, to say what the Savior had said to her that they didn’t know.     Mary proceeds to tell about a vision she had with the Savior.    As she begins, the text breaks off and most of her speech is missing.

We do have the end of her vision.  

The end is intriguing.  It is about the soul’s ascent.   The soul faces dark powers, the power of ignorance, desire, anger and so forth and defeats them finding its true nature, presumably clothed in perfect humanity.   

After Mary finishes recounting her vision, Andrew says, 

“I don’t believe this.  These are strange ideas.”   

Then Peter chimes in and his complaint is that Mary is a woman.   How could it possibly be that Jesus spoke to a woman without the guys knowing about it?

Mary weeps and is upset that they think she is lying.   Then Levi defends Mary, calling Peter a hothead and says if the Savior made her worthy who are you to reject her?    Levi says that they should clothe themselves in perfect humanity and proclaim the good news and not make any other rules.   After Levi says this, they all go out to teach and proclaim.    The gospel ends.  

I think the Gospel of Mary needs to be in the Bible.  And here it is in A New New Testament.    It needs to be in the Bible because it addresses an issue that was present in the second century when it was written that is still an issue in the 21st century, namely, sexism.    How many women priests are there in the Roman Catholic church?   Even the first woman ordained in the Presbyterian Church, Margaret Towner, is still living.  She was ordained in 1956.   We are supposedly the liberals. 

Peter, who of course represents the so-called emerging orthodox camp, does not accept what Mary has to say.   It has nothing to do with the contentof what she has to say.  Peter makes three statements:

Did he really speak with a woman without our knowing about it?
Are we to turn around and all listen to her?
Did he choose her over us?

This is classic.  This is a script for Archie Bunker.  

The Gospel of Mary reflects a second-century conflict over the role of women’s leadership.   Compare this with other second-century texts, such as the letters to Timothy in the New Testament.    This is 1 Timothy 2:11-15:

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

That’s sacred scripture?  And the Gospel of Mary isn’t? 

The reason the Gospel of Mary resonates with us today is that the struggle for women’s leadership and equality is as urgent as it has ever been.  Women's equality is not good just for women, but for the whole of society. From reproductive rights to healthcare to equal pay for equal work, you all know this, there is a war on women in our country.   This isn’t just a church issue.    That is why this gospel resonates.

The story around the text is fascinating and illustrative.  The people who followed this text were marginalized and accused of heresy when the orthodox, the group the character Peter represents, came into power.  The text was buried, literally, in a Christian grave for 1600 years.  Much of it is missing, in particular, the part where Mary speaks.   The male characters in the text discount her because she is a woman, and yet at the end of the day, they do go out and proclaim her truth.  Today in the 21st century this text is accused and dismissed as being heresy and gnostic and whatever. Absolutely it belongs in your Bible. 

It touches the contemporary issue of equality for half the human race.  That is enough reason.   But there is more good stuff in here.   

The key point is when the Savior says:

The Child of Humanity is within you. 
Follow it! 
Those who seek it will find it. 
Go then and proclaim the good news of the realm. 
Do not lay down any rules beyond what I determined for you,
nor give a law like the lawgiver,
lest you be confined by it.

That is the gospel.   It is a message of freedom.   It is a message of possibility and hope.  It is a message that celebrates being human.  It is not a message that says, 

You are so bad and God is so angry that he had torture and kill his son before he could forgive you. 

It is not about going to heaven or avoiding hell.  It is about taking the initiative and seeking the good and becoming a human being.    It also isn’t disconnected from the gospel stories of Jesus.   It sounds a lot like those passages in the canonical gospels where Jesus says,

You are the light of the world. 
You are the salt of the Earth. 
The kingdom of God is within you!

For contemporary people, the Gospel of Mary is a refreshing antidote to theologies of original sin and total depravity and the wrath of God and bloody atonement that are common as dirt.   It should also be said that that common theology is later theology put on the New Testament.  The Gospel of Mary can help us free the canonical New Testament and find its positive messages that have been so covered over with theologies of depravity that we seldom hear them.

One of my favorite exchanges is when Peter asks the Savior,

“What is the sin of the world?” 
The Savior said, “There is no sin, but it is you who make sin when you do the things that are like the nature of adultery, which is called ‘sin.’  That is why the Good came into your midst, coming to the good which belongs to every nature, in order to restore it to its root.”

What he is saying is what Creation Spirituality has been saying, and what we have been saying in this church for a long time.  The "root" or what is original is not sin, but "the good."   Humanity is blessed and good.  The universe is blessed and good.  The Child of Humanity, the human being is within you.  Find it.  Go on a quest.  Trust.  Find your goodness.  That is the point, not how bad you are, but how good you are and can be. 

What about Mary’s vision, the ascent of the soul?  

This is beautiful, poetic, pre-modern language about bravely facing our stuff and through that process discovering the beauty and good within us.   It is not about a disembodied soul ascending to heaven after death.  It is about finding your authentic self in this life.    

These “powers” have names, Darkness, Desire, Ignorance, Eagerness for Death, Realm of the Flesh, Wrathful Wisdom and so forth.   These powers want to keep us from being happy, ethical, loving, in short, human.    We may not use these same words but certainly some of them fit our contemporary experience. 

In what sense does “desire” have power over us, for instance?    We may have a desire for status for acceptance for fame for comfort for security and these desires even if natural and healthy can turn obsessive.    We may obsessively focus on desiring something at the expense of living life.  We may sacrifice what is most important to us for a desire, an addiction, an obsession, a fantasy.   The soul’s quest is to name this power and to talk about it and learn where it comes from and to come to terms with it.    

This is therapy. 

It is overcoming...
...our fears, 
...being overly sensitive to praise or criticism, 
...blaming others, 
...feeling persecuted.    

We all have that stuff. 

This past week in our youth group we discussed self-esteem.   If that was all we did all the time, that would be enough.    In fact, in many ways it is what we do.    I found this sheet on self-esteem and gave it to parents.  It is a list of characteristics of a person with a high self-esteem.   Here they are. 

A person with high self-esteem:

    Believes strongly in certain principles and values.
    Is capable of acting in his/her own best judgment.
    Has fewer health problems.
    Genuinely enjoys him/herself and participates in a wide variety of activities.
    Feels equal to others as a person.
    Resists efforts of peers to dominate or sway them.
    Feels confident in the ability to deal with challenging situations, despite failures and setbacks
    Is sensitive to the needs of others; cares about others.
    Is more flexible and adaptable in changing situations.
    Is happy, energetic, enthusiastic, and enjoys life.
That sounds similar to the vision in the Gospel of Mary, after the Soul has faced all the powers and then says:

What rules me has been slain,
and what turns me has been destroyed,
and my desire has been filled,
and ignorance has died.

That is therapy. 

It is self-esteem.  It is an ongoing quest to find and be your truth.     That to me is what it means to be clothed with the human or to find the Child of Humanity within.   A contemporary way of saying it is

I’m comfortable in my own skin.
I am OK with who I am. 
I am beloved.

I think that is a pretty good message and a pretty important message for teenagers and for all of us. 

Let us go then and proclaim the good news of the realm.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Coming Out of the Female Christ (8/18/13)

The Coming Out of the Female Christ
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

August 18, 2013

The Thunder: Perfect Mind 1:1-2:10
I was sent out from power
I came to those pondering me
And I was found among those seeking me
Look at me, all you who contemplate me
Audience, hear me
Those expecting me, receive me
Don’t chase me from your sight
Don’t let your voice or your hearing hate me
Don’t ignore me any place, any time
Be careful.  Do not ignore me
I am the first and the last
   I am she who is honored and she who is mocked
I am the whore and holy woman
I am the wife and the virgin
I am he the mother and the daughter
I am the limbs of my mother
I am a sterile woman and she has many children
I am she whose wedding is extravagant
And I didn’t have a husband
I am the midwife and she who hasn’t given birth
I am the comfort of my labor pains
I am the bride and the bridegroom
And it is my husband who gave birth to me
I am my father’s mother,
My husband’s sister, and he is my child
I am the slave woman of him who served me
I am she, the lord
of my child
But it is he who gave birth to me at the wrong time
And he is my child born at the right time
And my power is from within him
I am the staff of his youthful power
And he is the baton of my old womanhood
Whatever he wants happens to me
I am the silence never found
And the idea infinitely recalled
I am the voice with countless sounds
And the thousand guises of the word
I am the speaking of my name
You who loathe me why do you love me
and loathe the ones who love me?
You who deny me, confess me
You who confess me, deny me
You who speak the truth about me,
lie about me
You who know me, ignore me
You who ignore me, know me
I am both awareness and obliviousness
I am humiliation and pride
I am without shame
I am ashamed
I am security and I am fear
I am war and peace
Pay attention to me
I am she who is disgraced
And she who is important.

  The Thunder: Perfect Mind   4:1-8
Bring me in shame, to yourselves,
     out of shame
With or without shame
Blame the parts of me within yourselves
Come toward me, you who know me
And you who know the parts of me
Assemble the great among the small
     and earliest creatures
Advance toward childhood
Do not hate it because it is small
     and insignificant
Don’t reject the small parts of greatness
     because they are small
Since smallness is recognized from
     within greatness
Why do you curse me and revere me?
You wounded me and you relented
Don’t separate me from the first ones
Throw away no one
Turn away no one

In 1945 near Nag Hammadi, Egypt a young boy named Muhammad Ali while looking for dung for fuel discovered clay jars.   They contained ancient manuscripts written in Coptic.  Muhammad and his brother thought they would be able to sell them individually.  Their mother burned a few of them worried over their contents. The texts were traded through various antiquities dealers eventually finding their way to the Coptic Museum in Cairo.  It wasn’t until 1977 that they were published in English by James Robinson.     It wasn’t until the 1980s and 90s and into this century thanks to the internet that people have become aware of these texts.   

These texts found at Nag Hammadi that been buried there for over 1600 years were texts of a spiritual nature that had not been previously read.   They includedThe Gospel of Thomas that consists of sayings of Jesus, some similar to the gospels in the New Testament, some quite different.  Many of these texts were Christian but they weren’t in the Bible.  Why?  

The people who found these texts meaningful 1600 years ago and more did not win the day.  It is possible that they were sealed and hidden in clay jars to preserve them from being destroyed by what became Christian orthodoxy in the fourth century.    After Christianity became focused and organized with a fixed canon and creed, other writings were deemed heretical and often sought out and destroyed.  With the Nag Hammadi collection we have a glimpse into the diversity of early Christianity.      

Hal Taussig of Union Theological Seminary has been introducing these texts in lectures and workshops for the last 15-20 years and realized that they had interest beyond simply intellectual interest to scholars.   People asked Hal why these texts weren’t in their Bibles.    Thus began the project of A New New Testament.   Rather than simply ask, “Why not?”, Hal thought “Why not do something?”  

There are many other texts in addition to the Nag Hammadi collection that are ancient Christian writings.  Some we have known about for some time while others had been discovered only in the last 150 years or so.   So Hal went through a process of selecting a council of spiritual leaders and scholars and through this council selected ten texts to add to the canon of the New Testament.   You can read the Gospel of Thomas alongside the Gospel of Matthew, Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians and The Thunder Perfect Mind.   Instead of 27 books there are 37 books.   This is not “the” but “a” New New Testament.    You could make your own.   Here is one such collection of spiritual writings for 21st century Christians, A New New Testament

Is A New New Testament endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church, Holston Presbytery, or your local Free Will Baptist congregation?  No.  The very act of making A New New Testament invites perhaps even compels us to look at notions such as authority of scripture, canon, Word of God, creeds and beliefs, the person of Jesus, the Christ of faith, and what counts as “Christian” or church.     We are in the midst of a great “breaking open” or as religious scholar Phyllis Tickle says, a “great emergence” where old authorities and power structures are shifting.  

The response to this can either be one of excitement and openness to interesting possibilities or one rejection and a closing in to keep out so-called “heretical” ideas.    I am in the first camp.  I think it is exciting and that it is why I am introducing these texts in sermons and calling them scripture.  

One of these texts discovered at Nag Hammadi is a poem called The Thunder: Perfect Mind.  It is written in the first person.  The character speaking is female. But who is she and what is she?   She sounds somewhat like the personification of wisdom.  The Greek word for wisdom is Sophia.  This is from Proverbs 8:17.  Here Wisdom or Sophia is speaking as a female personification:  

Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise
her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand.
Beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
O simple ones, learn prudence;
acquire intelligence, you who lack it. 
Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right…

I love those who love me,
and those who seek me
diligently find me.   Proverbs 8:1-6; 17

In Thunder:  Perfect Mind, this personification of wisdom also speaks to an audience.   She wants to communicate something important about herself and about the nature of the universe and the individual. 

In Thunder, this wisdom woman goes farther than the Wisdom Woman of Proverbs.     She uses paradox and challenges dualistic notions of good and bad.  
I am she who is honored and she who is mocked
I am the whore and holy woman
I am the wife and the virgin
I am he the mother and the daughter

She says I had a wedding but no husband.  Then she says my husband gave birth to me and I am my father’s mother.    She sounds a little bit like the Logos in theGospel of John.    We read this text at Christmas in which John the Baptist says: “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”

In Thunder, she floods us with one image after another of what she is and its opposite. 

I am both awareness and obliviousness
I am humiliation and pride
I am without shame
I am ashamed
I am security and I am fear
I am war and peace
Pay attention to me
I am she who is disgraced
And she who is important.

This is a Christian text and she is a Christ figure.   We can tell this by the language she uses to describe herself such as “I am the first and the last.”   She speaks of her humiliation, shame, disgrace, rejection as Christ was rejected.     She is obviously not the historical Jesus.   Neither of course is Jesus as depicted in theGospel of John the historical Jesus nor the Jesus depicted in much of the canonical gospel material.   In Thunder, she is to use the phrase by Marcus Borg, the “post-Easter Jesus,” or the Christ of faith.  She is a product of the community’s projection and imagination as is the Christ of orthodox creed.     

She is very different than the Christ of orthodox creed.  She challenges all notions of wisdom that lead to arrogance or pretension.    She is not about believing in things.  She doesn’t save anyone.   There is no heaven or hell in this.   This is not easy doctrine to believe.  This is complex, paradoxical, and it requires reflection.   Check this out:

I am the coming together and the falling apart
I am the enduring and the disintegration
I am down in the dirt and they come up to me
I am judgment and acquittal
I myself am without sin, and the root of sin is from within me
I appear to be lust but inside is self-control
I am what anyone can hear but no one can say
I am a mute that does not speak and my words are endless
Hear me in tenderness, learn from me in roughness
I am she who shouts out and I am thrown down on the ground
I am the one who prepares the bread and my mind within
I am the knowledge of my name

When I read this my reaction is What?  Wow!  What?

She won’t let you get it and then let you go.   Once you think you have it, she comes back at you with another riddle, another image, another disturbance, and another gem.

One of my favorite gems is this imperative from chapter four verse five:

Advance toward childhood.

Right after that she says:

Do not hate it because it is small and insignificant
Don’t reject the small parts of greatness because they are small
Since smallness is recognized from within greatness

This parallels the canonical gospels in which Jesus welcomes the children.   He asks who is the greatest and points to the child and says unless you become as a child, you shall not enter the kingdom.    There is a need to unlearn to advance toward the beginner’s mind.   I want to assert that Thunder is not over against the canonical gospels.   She actually helps us draw out things in the canonical gospels we might not have seen. 

You have a parallel with the canonical gospels, but Thunder is even more explicit.  All of those things that we despise, that we reject, that we ignore, she is that.   If she is that, the divine is that, wisdom is that, the universe is that, Life is that, and you and I are that.  

That is why artists, novelists, and musicians are attracted to Thunder.   The text is rich with the complexity and the paradox of life itself.    We are a contradiction.  We are

She who is timid
And…safe in a comfortable place.

We are compassionate and cruel and hated and loved in every place.

We are all of these contradictions and so is everyone else.  So is Life.   When I read Thunder and allow Christ-Sophia or whatever her name is (and she doesn’t want to tell us), to speak to me, I have to allow myself to go to a place of questioning all that I think is good and bad and right and wrong and see the Sacred in all of it.   Even in my own despair and shame.

She says:
Wherever you hide yourselves, I myself will appear…
Receive me with understanding and heartache…

This week I did a radio interview with Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird who put together a book from the writings of Henri Nouwen.   This book is calledDiscernment:  Reading the Signs of Daily Life.   Henri Nouwen died in 1996 but this book is a compilation of his thoughts on discernment.   I have appreciated Henri Nouwen because of his raw humanity.  He holds little back about himself and his life and his struggles with God and faith.   

I found something in this book that jumped off the page and I see it here inThunder.   Henri Nouwen talked about Jesus’ life as depicted in the gospels.  In the first half of each the gospels, Jesus acts.  He heals; he casts out evil spirits; he teaches; he tells parables; he debates; he overturns tables in the temple.  Then he is handed over by Judas and for the rest of the story he is acted upon.   That is the meaning of the passion.   He is arrested.  He is tried.  He is beaten.  He is executed.  He is passive.   

Nouwen’s point is that the gospels are telling us that his passion is as sacred as his action.    The divine presence, the Christ-Sophia, the sacredness of Life, whatever name we have, is as real and present in Christ’s passion as in his action.  Of course, this is the same for us.   

Of course we value the action.  We value the accomplishment.  We value the movement.  We even evaluate ourselves in those terms.  How useful are we? What have we done?   When we cannot act; when we age;  when we become ill; when we suffer loss, we feel disgraced, abandoned, not useful, or worthwhile.  We judge ourselves and others.    

The point of the gospels as Nouwen helped me see and what I see in the Thunder: Perfect Mind is that the Sacred is in the being acted upon just as much as the action.   We are of divine worth in both postures equally.  The presence of God or the Sacred is there in the heartache and in the hiddenness.    The Sacred is there.  We are invited to see it and to allow ourselves to be open to it.  We are embraced and understood through it all.   Our passion is our teacher.

In life when we are acting and when we are being acted upon, we can hear the wisdom of Christ-Sophia:

Wherever you hide yourselves, I myself will appear…
Receive me with understanding and heartache…