Posted by Forrest Parkinson

Q 7 (Part 2 fin) Test God? Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and made him stand at the top of the Temple. “To prove you are God’s son” he said to him, “jump down from here and remember, it is written; ‘He will send his Angels to guard you and catch you in their hands so you won’t even hit your foot on a stone.’” Jesus answered him “It has been said; ‘You must not put God to the Test.’” Borg-Powelson-Riegert Reconstruction (1996) ref: Luke 4: 9-12 & Matthew 4: 5-7

Dear Jesus Way friends   In the movie Kramer vs. Kramer, in a moment of vulnerability, best friend Margaret shares; “I think…that if he really loved me…he wouldn’t have let me divorce him.” This was one of those movie lines that hit me like a ton of bricks. He failed her test. I could feel both sympathy and outrage at the same time. Margaret was right and wrong; morally reprehensible and at the same time smartly human. Good movie making stretches our conscious emotional range.  My reaction to that line changed me and how I relate to testing other people.   Anyone recall the movie Sixteen Candles? The story is about a suburban sixteen year-old girl whose family forgets her birthday while overwhelmed with preparations for her older sister’s wedding. Teen movies, for all their shortcomings, explore raw maturational conflicts that we poor human creatures rarely resolve to our satisfaction. We forgive a bride’s narcissism but can we forgive this shortcoming under other circumstances? With a simple word to her parents; “Hey! I there’s lots going on… but don’t forget tomorrow is my birthday! Sixteen, special, remember?” the story would be undone. Because the real need was not the celebration of the birthday but the remembrance. Remembrance is an external validation of the person which overcomes isolation. Even more than the rest of us old farts, teenagers keenly feel and fear isolation of self as they separate from their parents. The remembrance of the birthday validates the person being remembered; remembering = love. Being remembered, the birthday girl’s life counts and more than feeling special, she is special. Her parents failed her infantile need for affirmation and so we have a classic teen movie of authentic maturity gained painfully through modulating narcissism in the process of individuation. By putting her family to the test she discovered, through the pain of their failure, that she was a valid person whether or not her family remembered her birthday; her personal worth was independent. Our sixteen year old discovered her own self in her family’s forgetfulness.   But consider the principle of remembrance as a test of human relatedness. “She should have known!” “He just didn’t think!” “If I mattered to him he would have called.” “If she would have asked, I would have told her.” “If you don’t know, I won’t tell you.” The problem with these tests is that when the “other” fails in them, not only is an ego wounded but also a relationship is weakened. When all works well, we hardly know there is a test at all. Egos are affirmed and relationships strengthened. “I knew he would come through!” “That gal never disappoints!” “Boy, you never miss a trick!” But isn’t that the cutting edge of expectations? Do our worth and our relationship depend on coming through with the expected results?   Let’s take an algebra teacher with four students of similar abilities. Two come for tutoring two go it alone. One of the loners gets an A and the other a C. The teacher feels appreciation for the loner who must have worked very hard and perhaps feels annoyed or even sad for the C student who might have done better. In these, the teacher has little ego involved. Now, one of her tutored students gets an A and the other gets a C. The teacher feels proud of her hard work with the A student but feels disappointed, and maybe ashamed… of herself, … for the tutored student who only got a C. The tutoring created a relationship through which the other person expressed a fraction of herself. “It’s a bad reflection me!” Unfortunately for the teacher, the students and the relationships, the tutoring merged egos and put people to the test.   So we have the spiritual problem of merged egos vs. related egos. Merged egos test the other and are diminished or elevated by the result. Related egos remain independent with care in joy or empathy with the other but not dependent for validation. Merged egos are healthy between parents and children but must change through maturity. Painfully, this happened in the movie Sixteen Candles. Tragically, Margaret’s ego in Kramer vs. Kramer, was merged with her ex-husband who failed the test and suffered humiliating isolation.   The spiritual problem of merging our ego with God’s will, or Providence, is a form of magical thinking. Our prayer puts God to the test when we are merged, that is, when the result of our prayer affirms or disaffirms our value before God. Our prayer unfolds and reveals our best selves when we are maturely related to God, that is, our value before God is assured and our unfolding reality exposes opportunities for loving and creativity. Most of us are somewhere between the magical thinking and Buddha-like serenity and our deportment varies according to situation. But Jesus tells us not to put God to the test. Rather than practice magic, let your prayer help you to accept and respond to your life as it is.   When Jesus cries out from the cross “why have you forsaken me?” He teaches us to pray the true prayer of our heart, to pray not by aping the grownups and pretending to be mature, but to express in our interior life the truth of our feelings, even and especially towards God. From the cross Jesus then says “into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus teaches us to pray to God as a refuge, acknowledging the truth of adversity but claiming self as a treasure with the understanding that God values us in every moment of life… even the worst.   Faithfully, Forrest   Memorial Day Movie suggestion Remembrance is not necessarily about testing relationships but can also be about the opportunity to exercise our response to what we value. This is honoring the good in the best sense. As we remember our veterans on Monday, there is an amazing movie, Taking Chance, which stunningly illustrates the transformative power of formal remembrance as a way to honor life, sacrifice and the human enterprise. It relates the emotional journey of a Marine accompanying the remains of a soldier rom Iraq to his family in Montana. We will be watching this movie at the Little Neck Church this Thursday evening (5/30 @ 7) and it can also be live streamed from Netflix.                                                         Jesus Imperative #2: Worship and Serve God alone test God wood cut.jpg

Q 8 (Part 1) Temptation of Empire Then taking him to a high mountain, the devil showed Jesus in an instant all the empires of the world. “I will give you the power and glory of these Kingdoms, for it is mine, and I can give it to anyone I want. All you have to do is worship me.” Jesus retorted, “It is written ‘You must worship God and serve him alone.’” Having exhausted all these ways of tempting Jesus, he left him, to return at a later time. Borg-Powelson-Riegert Reconstruction (1996) ref: Matthew 4:8-11 & Luke 4: 5-8, 13