Living the Questions at SRCC

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Living the Questions at SRCC

An "email" perspective on "poor"
One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"
"It was great, Dad."
Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked.
"Oh yeah," said the son.
"So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.
The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them."
The boy's father was speechless. Then his son added, "Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Living the Questions at SRCC

Living the Questions at SRCC
New York Times /
Marcie sent me this in my email, and it fits right into our discussion last Sunday evening about "other gospels." My own opinion is "if I were a Gnostic believer in the third or fourth century, this is the kind of apology I'd have to invent in my head. It attempts to apologize for Judas' betraying behavior, and it explains Jesus' death in a peculiarly gnostic kind of way. The Canon excludes almost all gnostic notions because of their heresy. It would be good one night after we finish our LQ series to discuss some of the ideas we don't believe and why we don't believe them. I think that would be equally as healthy and helpful as discussing ideas we do believe and why we believe them. Kind of a vaccination against heresy. Doug

April 6, 2006
'Gospel of Judas' Surfaces After 1,700 Years
An early Christian manuscript, including the only known text of what is known as the Gospel of Judas, has surfaced after 1,700 years. The text gives new insights into the relationship of Jesus and the disciple who betrayed him, scholars reported today. In this version, Jesus asked Judas, as a close friend, to sell him out to the authorities, telling Judas he will "exceed" the other disciples by doing so.
Though some theologians have hypothesized this, scholars who have studied the new-found text said, this is the first time an ancient document defends the idea.
The discovery in the desert of Egypt of the leather-bound papyrus manuscript, and now its translation, was announced by the National Geographic Society at a news conference in Washington. The 26-page Judas text is said to be a copy in Coptic, made around A. D. 300, of the original Gospel of Judas, written in Greek the century before.
Terry Garcia, an executive vice president of the geographic society, said the manuscript, or codex, is considered by scholars and scientists to be the most significant ancient, nonbiblical text to be found in the past 60 years.
"The codex has been authenticated as a genuine work of ancient Christian apocryphal literature," Mr. Garcia said, citing extensive tests of radiocarbon dating, ink analysis and multispectral imaging and studies of the script and linguistic style. The ink, for example, was consistent with ink of that era, and there was no evidence of multiple rewriting.
"This is absolutely typical of ancient Coptic manuscripts," said Stephen Emmel, professor of Coptic studies at the University of Munster in Germany. "I am completely convinced."
The most revealing passages in the Judas manuscript begins, "The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover."
The account goes on to relate that Jesus refers to the other disciples, telling Judas "you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." By that, scholars familiar with Gnostic thinking said, Jesus meant that by helping him get rid of his physical flesh, Judas will act to liberate the true spiritual self or divine being within Jesus.
Unlike the accounts in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the anonymous author of the Gospel of Judas believed that Judas Iscariot alone among the 12 disciples understood the meaning of Jesus' teachings and acceded to his will. In the diversity of early Christian thought, a group known as Gnostics believed in a secret knowledge of how people could escape the prisons of their material bodies and return to the spiritual realm from which they came.
Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton who specializes in studies of the Gnostics, said in a statement, "These discoveries are exploding the myth of a monolithic religion, and demonstrating how diverse — and fascinating — the early Christian movement really was."
The Gospel of Judas is only one of many texts discovered in the last 65 years, including the gospels of Thomas, Mary Magdalene and Philip, believed to be written by Gnostics.
The Gnostics' beliefs were often viewed by bishops and early church leaders as unorthodox, and they were frequently denounced as heretics. The discoveries of Gnostic texts have shaken up Biblical scholarship by revealing the diversity of beliefs and practices among early followers of Jesus.
As the findings have trickled down to churches and universities, they have produced a new generation of Christians who now regard the Bible not as the literal word of God, but as a product of historical and political forces that determined which texts should be included in the canon, and which edited out.
For that reason, the discoveries have proved deeply troubling for many believers. The Gospel of Judas portrays Judas Iscariot not as a betrayer of Jesus, but as his most favored disciple and willing collaborator.
Scholars say that they have long been on the lookout for the Gospel of Judas because of a reference to what was probably an early version of it in a text called Against Heresies, written by Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons, about the year 180.
Irenaeus was a hunter of heretics, and no friend of the Gnostics. He wrote, "They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas."
Karen L. King, a professor of the history of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School, and an expert in Gnosticism who has not yet read the manuscript released today, said that the Gospel of Judas may well reflect the kinds of debates that arose in the second and third century among Christians.
"You can see how early Christians could say, if Jesus's death was all part of God's plan, then Judas's betrayal was part of God's plan," said Ms. King, the author of several books on Gnostic texts. "So what does that make Judas? Is he the betrayer, or the facilitator of salvation, the guy who makes the crucifixion possible?"
At least one scholar said the new manuscript does not contain anything dramatic that would change or undermine traditional understanding of the Bible. James M. Robinson, a retired professor of Coptic studies at Claremont Graduate University, was the general editor of the English edition of the Nag Hammadi library, a collection of Gnostic documents discovered in Egypt in 1945.
"Correctly understood, there's nothing undermining about the Gospel of Judas," Mr. Robinson said in a telephone interview. He said that the New Testament gospels of John and Mark both contain passages that suggest that Jesus not only picked Judas to betray him, but actually encouraged Judas to hand him over to those he knew would crucify him.
Mr. Robinson's book, "The Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Disciple and his Lost Gospel" (Harper San Francisco, April 2006), predicts the contents of the Gospel of Judas based on his knowledge of Gnostic and Coptic texts, even though he was not part of the team of researchers working on the document.
The Egyptian copy of the gospel was written on 13 sheets of papyrus, both front and back, and found in a multitude of brittle fragments.
Rudolphe Kasser, a Swiss scholar of Coptic studies, directed the team that reconstructed and translated the script. The effort, organized by the National Geographic, was supported by Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art, in Basel, Switzerland, and the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery, an American nonprofit organization for the application of technology in historical and scientific projects.
The entire 66-page codex also contains a text titled James (also known as First Apocalypse of James), a letter by Peter and a text of what scholars are provisionally calling Book of Allogenes.
Discovered in the 1970's in a cavern near El Minya, Egypt, the document circulated for years among antiquities dealers in Egypt, then Europe and finally in the United States. It moldered in a safe-deposit box at a bank in Hicksville, N. Y., for 16 years before being bought in 2000 by a Zurich dealer, Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos. The manuscript was given the name Codex Tchacos.
When attempts to resell the codex failed, Ms. Nussberger-Tchacos turned it over to the Maecenas Foundation for conservation and translation.
Mr. Robinson said that an Egyptian antiquities dealer offered to sell him the document in 1983 for $3 million, but that he could not raise the money. He criticized the scholars now associated with the project, some of whom are his former students, because he said they violated an agreement made years ago by Coptic scholars that new discoveries should be made accessible to all qualified scholars.
The manuscript will ultimately be returned to Egypt, where it was discovered, and housed in the Coptic Museum in Cairo.
Ted Waitt, the founder and former chief executive of Gateway, said that his foundation, the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery, gave the National Geographic Society a grant of more than $1 million to restore and preserve the manuscript and make it available to the public.
" I didn't know a whole lot until I got into this about the early days of Christianity. It was just extremely fascinating to me," Mr. Waitt said in a telephone interview. He said he had no motivation other than being fascinated by the finding. He said that after the document was carbon dated and the ink tested, procedures his foundation paid for, he had no question about its authenticity. "You can potentially question the translation and the interpretation, he said, but you can't fake something like this. It would be impossible."

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Reading the Bible in 90 Days

Here is a link to the website that talks about Reading the Bible in 90 Days. Here is a copy of the Reading Plan as Zondervan maps it out. (It's a pdf file.) Actually purchasing the special Bible designed for this purpose is not necessary. (Although I am intrigued by the updated translation of the New Internation Version, especially it's commitment to inclusive language.) Let me know if you'd like to embark on this journey with me. Dana suggested that we could start on Easter. I think that's a great idea!

Also there is a blog of folks whom I've come to admire who are nearing the end of their 90-day journey together reading through the Bible. I think it would be pretty cool to follow their model and blog through our journey as well. I invite you to check out their website at Blogging through the Bible in 90 Days.

Disclaimer: This is merely an invitation--not an expectation or another thing to add to your already impossibly full To Do List. :-) I like the way they put it on the Blogging through the Bible website:
We are . . . all coming together to attempt to read the Bible in 90 Days. We figure the external accountability of doing it with a group might help us stay better on track but regardless, we're at least giving it a try.

The key phrase for this group is "It's all good." If you want to post every day or you never end up posting. If you make it through till the end or it ou end up dropping out after Day Two. If you get ahead of the game or you end up hopelessly behind and don't finish until Advent. If you lurk quietly or are the active discussion-initiator. Any way it goes for you . . . It's All Good.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More Info on Minerva Carcano

In August 2004 Minerva Carcano was elected bishop of the Southwest Desert Conference of the United Methodist Church. The main website for that Conference is

Carcano's email address is

You can find numerous letters from the bishop at

Monday, March 27, 2006

Minerva Carcano (cotton fields)

Haven't figured out how to email her yet, but found this on Minerva Carcano, the woman who was the young girl picking cotton in Texas. FYI:

Church must continue reaching to Hispanics, commission told
Sept. 30, 2003
By Linda Bloom*
HOUSTON (UMNS) - When the Rev. Minerva Carcano was growing up in Edinburgh, Texas, there were two Methodist churches in town - one for Hispanics and one for "Anglos."
She was thrilled when the two churches joined forces for vacation Bible school - held during the first summer at her own church and the second summer at the other church, which she had never been inside before.
Her joy turned to dismay when it became clear that the school's final program would be confined to the fellowship hall because the Anglo congregation "did not want their sanctuary soiled by brown children."
Carcano, now almost 50 years old and serving as a United Methodist clergywoman in the Oregon-Idaho Conference, recalled that experience of her youth during the Sept. 25-28 meeting of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
Her presentations and Bible studies were part of an emphasis during the meeting on Hispanic United Methodists, particularly women. The denomination has encouraged the growth of Hispanic members and congregations during the past decade through its National Plan for Hispanic Ministry.
The Rev. Jeannie Trevino-Teddlie, a commission member from Dallas, pointed out that Latinos and Latinas would soon be the majority population in Texas, and she added that if the church is serious about its call to make disciples for Christ, it must be serious about mission with this population.
Trevino-Teddlie, director of the Mexican-American Program at Perkins School of Theology, led commission members through part of "Pentecost Journey," a basic resource that she helped put together for the National Plan for Hispanic Ministry. The curriculum sensitizes congregations to issues relating to Hispanics.
Carcano said she has celebrated the improvements in her own life because of her faith and involvement in the church, but stressed that she knows "people of my generation" who continue to struggle and live in poverty.
That struggle has intensified with the economic decline of recent years, she added, recalling church families who were "working hard but not making it."
Maria Cantu, a candidate for lay missioner from Vida Nueva United Methodist Church in Houston, agreed that poverty, along with immigration status and difficulty with language, were the major problems faced by Hispanics today. She participated in a panel discussion with two other local Hispanic women and two Hispanic commission members.
But the Mexican native and grandmother of 11 had high praise for the freedom she felt within the church. "As Hispanic women, we are now free to express ourselves - we can preach, we can teach," she told commission members. "All women, Hispanic or not, have gifts to bring to the church."
Irma Turrubistes, a pastoral leader at Vida Nueva, also sees value in her neighborhood evangelistic work and involvement in the church, despite the lack of economic resources. "One of the reasons I have come to the United Methodist Church is that I see a big future," she said.
The Rev. Maria T. Santiago, a commission member from Puerto Rico, still finds barriers for women, both inside and outside the church. In Puerto Rico, for example, men usually are pastors of the big churches, while "women tend to be sent to missions, sometimes impossible missions. We go where nobody wants to go.
"We have to empower ourselves," she added. "No one is going to do it for us."
Even low-income women can empower themselves. Turrubistes noted that every morning a small group of women comes to her home to pray, eat and prepare for the tasks of the day. In the church itself, about 35 women sell food to raise money for mission. "It's the women who are doing it," she said. "They come with their children."
In the neighborhood around Central Park United Methodist Church, the Rev. Guadeloupe Diaz has been organizing the women and other residents, many of them immigrants, for the past four years. Programs range from a counseling program for abused women to preschool classes to spiritual guidance. "We never close our doors, even if we can't pay our bills," Diaz said.
Commission members visited Central Park and witnessed the work that has been put into the building, with the help of volunteer labor and a $25,000 grant. As she showed them around, Diaz mentioned it was not unusual, on a given day, to have a viewing organized by a nearby funeral home take place in the sanctuary as preschool kids played in the social hall and women prepared meals in the attached kitchen.
Commission members also visited Iglesia Metodista Unida San Marcos, the first Hispanic church chartered by the Texas Annual Conference in 1989. In addition to a meal and lively worship, the Rev. Silverio Sanchez shared his journey from Mexico to the United States and from small-business owner to pastor.
He told how his congregation bought and converted a former bank building into a house of worship. "We're still in the saving business," he quipped.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

Living the Questions at SRCC

Living the Questions at SRCC

My Spiritual Biography (early years)

I wrote this a while back and decided to go ahead and post it before the class is over.
-- Rick

My Spiritual Autobiography (early years), by Rick Mitchell

My earliest spiritual recollection is that of marveling at the infinite span of time and space -- as I looked up into the night sky and wondered how it could be that anything could have no beginning or end. And even today, I marvel at how the sky is filled with the stars whose light began to travel toward us so many millions of years ago. How can people try to encapsulate the Reality of such a vast universe within the limited grasp of our small, human minds?

Another equally important remembrance is that of knowing the feel and reality of love in my life from a very early age. Whether from the expressive love of my mother, the steady, if sometimes tumultuous, love of my father, the fondness I felt from my favorite aunt and many friends, or the reticent, almost noncommittal, love of my paternal grandparents, I knew -- amid it all -- that I was loved and wanted.

After all, I was the result of a very difficult birth, where a doctor had given up on saving either me or my mother. But, mercifully, our lives were saved due to the intervention of a dear friend’s mother. I was an only child.

My mother was a very important influence on my spiritual life. We spent a lot of time together after my dad took a job out of town and was home only on weekends. We shared many evenings in which she would read books to me, and occasionally a woman in town whose husband was in the service would come over and play the piano and sing with us. It was a stimulating period intellectually and spiritually for me.

My mother dug a pool, single-handedly, in our back yard and lined it with concrete. It was a somewhat rough and crude job, but it held water long enough to be able to take a dip on summer nights, and she worked at teaching me to float -- in preparation for learning to swim.

A few years later, she would tell me that accepting God’s grace was like floating -- just “let go” and let God support the weight of all my cares and worries. I tried to follow her instructions, but I think my motivation was too focused on the need I felt to “be saved” -- and too little on recognizing and accepting that I was loved by God. It was not until my childhood years had passed that I found that key and made peace with the “issue” of salvation. I was in high school at the time and had gone through a series of responding to “altar calls” through the years -- emotional times of feeling that I wanted to somehow be closer to God. I “gave my heart to the Lord” and was baptized (twice) but continued to feel conflicted and anxious. I know now that it was partly due to the emotional manipulation and at time outright exploitation of youthful naiveté. Instead of getting an onjective instruction on God’s love and care for all people, I was getting a steady dose of emotional revivalist preaching on the “plan of salvation,” and I was constantly told that the only alternative to following the plan successfully was to burn in hell for all eternity.

Although the human interactions around me were (thankfully) very loving and supporting, the understanding of God I was taught was quite limited and narrow. When it finally broke through to my teen-aged consciousness that God was benevolent and truly loved me, I found it extremely liberating and joyful. It was, indeed, the sought-after experience of reassurance and acceptance by God, and while I told no one at the time, I knew the question of my own personal salvation had been answered for me for life. I could begin to focus on aspects of God’s love for me and for all creation -- and on doing something about building my own life.

It was not apparent to me then, but I believe that experience came about as part of (and maybe was even one of the causes of) a social maturing and realization that matters of the heart, spirit, conscience or other important life questions could not be answered and solved by formulas or “plans,” and that the necessary key would always be love and openness to others and to the “other” in our lives -- which we often see and identify as that mysterious entity called “God.” In my experience that force or entity is the love we know and share in our everyday life experiences. And, in my experience, I have found it to have a personal face and so I have come to refer to it as “Love.”

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Resurrection as a Spiritual Practice

Many thanks to Brent and Lesa who sent a copy of this article "Resurrection as a Spiritual Practice." The writers suggest that the word resurrection should not be thought of as a noun, but as a verb. Resurrection is a way of living in the world. You can find the article on the website for Spirituality & Health by clicking on the article's title in the sentence above. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Meal/Observer/Prayer Schedule

I should have done this a while back, but better late than never! Here is the list of helpers for the remainder of our time . . .

March 19
Observer: Lura
Closing Prayer: Lura
Meal: Rick and Trader Joe

March 26
Closing Prayer: Greg
Meal: Lenita and Dick

April 2
Closing Prayer: Micky
Meal: Eliza

April 9
Observer: Micky
Closing Prayer: Doug
Meal: Jan & Greg