Simurgh By Bev. G
This story is based on the poem “The Conference of the Birds” written in the 12th century by a Persian Sufi.
It is the tale of our journey home to Abba.
I believe the story begins soon after creation because in the beginning it speaks of few people and crystal-clear waters and I think it culminates today when the birds are afraid of extinction due to poachers and pollution. So, the same conditions for the journey began at creation and still exist today.
Hoopoe is the main character in this story and for me represents Jesus.
Thousands of birds gather in a vast meadow to speak to Hoopoe. They are concerned that all the other animals and insects have a king and they do not. They want to find their true king and ask for Hoopoe’s help in doing so.
People have many gods, money, power, self-importance, superiority but they need to have the desire to truly take the spiritual journey to find Abba regardless of how that changes their understanding and life situation. This can be extremely difficult and yet easy.
Thousands of birds meet in the meadow to address Hoopoe telling her why they are likely candidates to make this journey. Hoopoe warns them that the journey will not be easy and will cover seven continents over the course of seven years.
Some of the birds willing offer to give up everything, their families, nests, all that they have in order to make the journey. Others make excuses why they cannot or will not. Some are indecisive, maybe later, let me think about it a bit.
The book gives a beautiful description of the habitat, plumage and characteristics of thirty birds. It is at times humorous and an easy read.
After three days of meetings the thousands of birds are reduced to only 3,000 who are willing to make the journey. Three is a holy number, it represents the Trinity.
The birds wait anxiously to find out who Hoopoe will choose among them to make the journey but she simply asks them to decide.
The journey takes them across seven continents over the course of seven years. They travel through deserts.
Sometimes our spiritual journey feels like a desert. We need to be close to the Living Water that is Jesus as we explore and move ahead.
Their journey takes them to the Arctic and Antarctica where it is very cold and harsh and yet some people thrive in this space. The penguin is right at home. I chuckled when I read about the Penguin when they visited Antarctica. The author says that she looked like she was wearing a tuxedo but for me she looks like a nun. I sort of related to the Penguin, kind of chubby, unable to fly but willing to make the journey, however; I was totally disappointed with her when she disregarded the needs of her companions for food until Hoopoe reprimanded her. We need always to listen to the voice of Jesus. Everything we are and everything we have needs to be shared with others. Sometimes we are so filled with the joy of discovery that we fail to see that others are still searching. We always need to share.
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we are not accepted, or misunderstood for what we believe. We are given a cold reception. We need to wrap ourselves in the warmth of Jesus’ love. Love will melt the ice.
They visited a beautiful lake in Europe and were totally enjoying themselves until a great sea monster appeared. We cannot become unaware of the enemy’s presence. We cannot be caught off guard. Our focus must always be on reaching Abba. Sometimes life is difficult and sometimes it is easy. I think when it is easy, we are easily lulled away from our journey if we don’t stay focused.
The journey took them to Asia and they become lost in a huge forest. They panic and try to do it on their own. Can’t be done. They need to listen to the calm, wise, soothing voice of Hoopoe (Jesus) Hoopoe leads them safely through the forest but not without losing many who try to find their own way.
They also visited a deserted volcanic island off the coast of Australia. Violence, heat, destruction are all tools of Satan. Hoopoe warned them to run, fly, get away but some did not listen and were consumed. Satan has a way of freezing us dead in our tracks if we do not know Jesus. In the midst of the most difficult times in our lives he will whisper in our ears, “Why has Jesus abandoned you, where is He now”? He is the great deceiver. Jesus is always with us, just as Hoopoe was always with them, travelling through the same horrific conditions, encouraging, pointing the way to safety and showing love.
Finally, the birds arrived broken, bruised and malnourished at the base of Mount Qua. Hoopoe encourages them to make the journey up the mountain to find their true King but the birds start to rebel. They complain about the journey that has brought them there, they want to simply go home.
I found this to be the most difficult part of the story, why, after travelling so far and through such horrific conditions did, they want to go home when they were right there. They only had one more obstacle to overcome to meet their king. It reminded me of the children of Israel when they were crossing the desert saying, “We want to go back to Egypt”. They had come so far everything in me kept saying complete the journey!!!
Finally, they once again listen Hoopoe who helps them to reestablish their faith. They are told they will have to cross a bridge that is only as thick as a hair. They wonder how in the world they can ever do that but they follow Hoopoe and as they step on the very narrow bridge it expands to accommodate them. Their faith is restored and they travel on.
Where is their King they cried? Hoopoe tells them to touch wings and as they do, they are lifted up to the top of the mountain. Mountain top experiences are few but always wonderful! But they cannot find Simurgh. Hoopoe produces a special feather and lights it. The birds are shown a mirror and in the mirror is another bird with thirty heads. This is the great Simurgh, they are part of Him. They have come from the essence of God and have now returned to him. They have completed their journey home. It hasn’t been an easy journey but it has totally been worthwhile. They now see their King reflected in the lives of each other. Simurgh is Persian for “Thirty Birds”.
In Sufism it is believed that God alone exists and everything is merely a reflection of Him.
The Gospel of Judas By B. Groombridge
The Gospel of Judas, is a Gnostic Gospel believed to have been written in the second century which tells the story of Judas Iscariot in a totally different light from the account given in the Bible. It was discovered in Egypt in the 1970s in a cave.
I could not read the first few verses of this gospel without realizing how much Judas loved and admired Jesus and of his devotion to him. Judas tells of a week-long encounter with Jesus in which Jesus revealed many things, from the creation of the heavens, angels, the earth and humans. He speaks about the calling of the disciples of which he was one and of Jesus’ teachings about the unseen, unknown mysteries beyond our comprehension.
In The Gospel of Judas, unlike the biblical gospels, Judas mentions that Jesus sometimes appeared to the disciples in different forms, often as a child. Perhaps this explains the puzzling passages where the disciples don’t recognize Jesus i.e. Mary in the Garden, Jesus walking on the water etc. And there are several passages where Judas said, Jesus laughed. I like this very much. Jesus was/is full of joy! I believe that Jesus laughed a lot!
In this Gospel Judas is the disciple who says, “I know who you truly are! And from where you emerge………….and Jesus recognized that Judas did indeed know this to be true. He told Judas to leave the other disciples because he wanted to reveal to him more secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus revealed to Judas that he will be replaced by Matthias and become the 13th disciple and that he would be cursed by humanity. We have all been taught down through the ages that Judas was an evil, thieving, betrayer, this is the curse Jesus was speaking of. In this gospel we hear Jesus referring to Judas’ role in redeeming humanity. Why then do we curse him?
The disciples, with the exception of Judas, all had the same dream and Jesus interpreted that dream. In the dream the disciples saw priests and Levites, making sacrifices and it tells something about the character of these priest. When Jesus interpreted the dream for them, he told the disciples that they were the priests in the dream and referred to them as priests of falsehood. They were told that they were leading many people astray by inadvertently paying homage to the harsh, vindictive God portrayed in the Old Testament and by following the many rules and regulations laid out for them to follow. The God that they are worshipping falsely disguises himself as Abba whose character is shown in and through Jesus. In John 14:9 we read, "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father’? So, there is a distinction given between the God of the Old Testament and Abba who is Jesus Father. Jesus tells his disciples to stop making sacrifices and leading people astray.
Judas also had a dream; in his dream the disciples were treating him badly and stoning him. Jesus told him, “You’ll become my thirteenth disciple, but you’ll be cursed by humanity, yet eventually reign over them and ascend to my holy generation.” He also told him, “for it’s your destiny to sacrifice this body which bears me!” Wow, according to this Gospel Judas was willing to give up everything to fulfill scripture fully understanding that he would be cursed by all of us for the role he was destined to play. He was chosen to be the instrument by which we would receive salvation. In John 17:12 it says, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” So, it was predestined that one of the disciples had to hand Jesus over to fulfill scripture Jesus told Judas that this was his role.
It is my belief that Judas loved Jesus very much and that he was an instrument in the hand of God which brought about the redemption of the world. And I wonder if he actually committed suicide, even the accounts of his death vary, could it be that he came to a more sinister end?
One day we will know for sure, but for now perhaps we should listen to Jesus words once again, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2).
Judas Iscariot Betrayer or Instrument of God B. Groombridge
Have you ever heard or perhaps read about someone and formed an impression of what that person ‘s character was like only to find out when you actually met them, or someone who was close the them, that what you had come to believe about them was false or distorted?
Today I am going to share with you some thoughts I have about the disciple we all love to hate, Judas Iscariot. The disciple we have all have been taught was a betrayer and a thief, someone totally evil and to be forever despised.
Those of you who attend Bible Study will have come to understand that sometimes the translators of the Scriptures have, with the best of intentions, added their own thoughts to try to explain or enhance situations.
For instance, I discovered recently that Judas' surname “Iscariot” is probably a corruption of the Latin sicarius meaning murderer and I wondered if Iscariot was actually his last name or something that was ascribed to him centuries ago by early Biblical translators?
So please just for a few moments, try to empty your minds of any preconceived ideas you have developed about Judas over the years. Keep in mind that the Jewish people were looking for a military leader as their Messiah, one who would deliver them by force from the Romans, and consider with me the “What if”
What if Judas admired, loved and believe in Jesus so much that he wanted to force him to reveal himself as the great military leader the Jewish people were looking for in their Messiah.
What if the last thing he wanted to do was to bring about the death of his teacher and friend.
Let’s take a minute and look at some scripture involving Judas in a different way than we are accustomed to looking at it. With..what if eyes.
In John 12:3-6 we read, “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it”
Now let’s take a moment and think about that passage..
I’m sure that Jim, Jean and I, as warden’s of this church, are all guilty of asking that very same question. “Is this the best place that we can spend this money” So, in that way, I can personally relate to the question Judas asked, after all he was keeper of the purse.
What if Judas didn’t mean any insult to Mary or Jesus but, in fact, was thinking about where the money might be better spent.
What benefit would it be to Judas to steal from the purse anyway?
surely the disciples would have known where the money was being spent and would have recognized if the purse was being stolen from; after all, they were together all of the time, and maybe more importantly, what would Judas spend it on?
What if just perhaps this accusation of Judas being a thief was added by Bible Translators eons ago to defame his character making us hate Judas even more and make him the hated scape goat. As humans, it seems we always need to have someone to blame don’t we.
I think it is important to recognize that Jesus did not reprimand Judas because he was stealing from the purse, and Jesus wasn’t shy about confronting people when they were doing wrong, instead he said, "Leave her alone,' 'It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial."
Jesus never accused Judas of being a thief. It was Judas’ understanding that Jesus was addressing here.
It is important for us to remember that when we read these passages that we are reading them with an understanding that the disciples did not yet have. We are reading post resurrection. We know that Jesus is the son of God and the promised Messiah. The disciples were still struggling to understand who Jesus really was.
If Judas wanted the 30 pieces of silver that betraying Jesus would bring him, and we must assume then that if he was willing to betray Jesus to this type of brutality that he hated him, then why are we told in Matthew 26:5 that he threw the money back at those who gave it to him and then commit suicide.
What if, His remorse was unbearable!
What if, He couldn’t face life without Jesus
What if, His plan had gone so terribly wrong that it resulted in the brutal death of his best friend.
What if, It was all too much for him to handle.
In the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke we are told that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.
A kiss demonstrates affection, he could have simply pointed him out but instead he kissed him. This also makes us hate Judas even more, how could he betray our Jesus with a kiss?
BUT DID HE??
In the Gospel of John, there is no betrayal kiss. When we get to the scene of Jesus' arrest in John 18:1-13a, Judas himself does not actually hand Jesus over to the authorities. In John's Gospel, there is no kiss, no identification at all of Jesus. We know only that "Judas was standing with them," presumably with the Jewish police representing the chief priests and Pharisees and the Roman soldiers. Jesus came forward out of the garden, of his own accord, and willingly gave himself up to the authorities.
Could Jesus have been trying to protect Judas from self condemnation by asking the guards who they were looking for and by acknowledging that he was Jesus.
Let’s go back just a little bit. At the last supper, Jesus said, “I am not speaking about all of you. I know the ones I have chosen. What is written in the Holy Writings must happen. It says, ‘The man who eats bread with Me has turned against Me.’ "For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him" (John 6:64 NRSV). One of the disciples had to be the betrayer to fulfill scripture. . John 13:18 NLV
And again at the table in Matthew 26:50, Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”
Jesus didn’t say get out of here you traitor but “My friend” and could “what you have come for” mean what he was destined to do?
In Mark 14:21 we read “For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”
We read this as though Judas is evil and damned; a thief and betrayer, condemned to everlasting torment but…could it refer to the way in which Judas would be thought of down through the generations, not as part of God’s plan for the salvation for the world, but as the man who betrayed the Son of God. For ever hated and despised.
Remember Jesus own words when the woman was caught in adultery and brought to him, “They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
We all betray Jesus everyday when we fail to love as he has commanded
When we fail to acknowledge publicly that our lives belong to Him and without Him we are nothing.
When we are ashamed to speak his name outside of a church setting for fear of people making fun of us,
When we put our wants and desires first and Him last.
When we see injustice and prejudice and walk away.
Why are we so intent on demonizing Judas? How is Judas really any worse than any one of us?
I’m not trying to say Judas was a hero or a great man, the truth is that we don’t know what he was really like.
We do know this
that he was human, just like us,
that he loved Jesus enough to follow him,
and that in the end he let his own thoughts, motifs and desires rule his actions.
So, I guess, the question for me as I think about Judas is this, was Judas a devious thief and betrayer as I have been taught to believe throughout my entire life or, perhaps, was he an instrument in the hand of God and a scape goat for humanity? Amen
What is Santeria?
Santeria is a Spanish word which roughly translated means, “worship of saints”. There is a strong connection, on the surface, with Catholicism. In this religion it is believed that the deities actually descend to earth to help and console their followers.
Santeria is a religion of initiation. There are three levels that a person must pass through before they can become a santero. The high priest is called a Babalawo.
The deities or saints in Santeria are called orishas. Santeria has one god with many orishas. These orishas cover every aspect of human behavior and nature and have distinct areas of control.
On rare occasions there is animal sacrifice, usually chickens, which are eaten by the Santero following the ceremony.
With the slave trade coming to the new world came the orishas. Slaves brought them with their gods, customs, music, language and other traditions. These slaves were primarily concentrated in the Caribbean and South America. The slaves were mostly from western Africa, todays Nigeria and from a tribe called the Yoruba. The Yoruba were called Lucumi in Cuba and Macumba in Brazil. Being slaves, they were expected to adopt the customs and traditions of their Spanish masters. This extended not just to the Spanish language but also to Catholicism but this caused a problem because the Yoruba insisted on following their own traditions. The Spanish forced them to worship Catholic Saints and a Catholic God. It did not take the Yoruba long to realize the similarities between the saints and the orishas. So they assigned Catholic saint names to the orishas. So when the Spaniards saw them worshipping St. Barbara they were actually worshipping Chango, the god of thunder. The need to disguise their orishas in the Catholic faith is why the religion has so many images of Catholic Saints.
When a santero is seen praying to an image of St. Anthony, he is actually praying to Eleggua the Lord of crossroads. The Yoruba’s belief system is a complex system of orishas and God. Each orisha has its own legend as to how it came to be, these legends are called Pataki. The Pataki are beautiful illustrations into the culture of the Yoruba people. The Pataki tells of how the earth was created, how humans came to be and of course how the orishas came into being as well.
While there are many orishas, seven are most commonly worshipped and they are called the seven African Powers or Siete Potencias. It is generally one of these orishas that one receives when they becomes a Santero.
Some of the Orishas:
Obatala: Catholic Saint..Our Lady of Mercy
According to legend, Obatala was the first orisha created. He is the god of peace and purity and aids all doctors and lawyers.
Eluggua: Catholic Saint..St. Antony of Padua
Eluggua is the messanger of the gods and lord of all crossroads. Next to Obatala he is the most powerful orisha. His blessing is required before any magic spell and he must be fed or offered sacrifice before any other orisha. He is a master magician and his spells can not be broken. He judges as only he sees fit. He is fond of children and is often portrayed as a child himself. He plays tricks and is quite mischievious. He is often represented as a stone head with eyes, ears and mouth made out of cowrie shells and is usually kept behind the front door to guard the household. All orishas need his permission in order to help any of their children or carry out any of their magic.
Chango: Catholic Saint…St. Barbara
Chango rules over fire, lightening and thunder. He is a master dancer and drummer. He carries a mortar with him with which he mixes his spells. Legend says the Chango traded his gift of divination which was originally his with Orunla who had the gift of dance. Chango embodies passion, virility and power. He also symbolizes war and dance. Chango is also the only orisha worshipped by the mayomberos or evil practitioners from the Congo. Chango is used to dominate a person or overcome ones enemies.
Oggun: Catholic Saint…St. Peter
Oggun symbolizes raw energy, violence and brute force. He is the orisha of the working man. He lives in the woods and is constantly at war. He works with iron. He is the patron orisha of policemen, farmers and surgeons. All metals come under his domain and he protects against accidents which he causes and aids in surgeries. His wife is Oya who has and continues to have an affair with Chango. Oggun eats first when an animal is sacrificed and he is the knife used in killing.
Orunla: Catholic Saint… St. Francis of Asisi
He defines the future. He does not allow women to be his priestesses and only allows men to be initiated into his mysteries. He is also called Orunmila and Ifa and aids in cursing and mental illness.
From the Cuban Revolution of 1959 to the early 21st century, nearly one million Cubans left the island, bringing Orisha religion to cities throughout the Americas, particularly Miami and New York. The tradition also spread to other Latino communities, African Americans, and white Americans. Although census data are lacking, it is likely that initiated devotees number in the tens of thousands and that those who consult an orisha at one time or another may be counted in the millions. by Bev. G
Mystical Interpretation of the Creation Story and the book "Gnostic Paul"
I’ve spent some time thinking and wondering about why so much in the Bible appears to be symbolic. Why is the Truth spoken in a symbolic language one that has to be searched out and discovered to be understood? I guess it's sort of like finding a precious stone, they are not usually found just lying on top of the ground are they.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the creation story with the demiurge as the creator. And I started to wonder why he would create only Adam making Eve an afterthought. Then I wondered what if Abba created Eve? This would account for Eve giving Adam the forbidden fruit, because she would want Adam to have the knowledge of good and evil to find his way to Abba. Please believe me, I am far from being a feminist, I believe we are all equal and if Adam was created second I would feel the exact same way about him.
I believe it was Abba who walked in the garden with them and it was the demiurge that they hid themselves from. Love and fear present in their lives at the same time, they must choose love.
If Abba created Eve, then Adam and Eve's two children, Caine and Abel, would each inherit the character traits of one of the two creators. Caine, the demiurge, and Abel, Abba. This would also explain why Abel instinctively knew what sacrifice would be acceptable to God and Caine did not. It would also explain Caine’s jealousy and hatred ultimately resulting in the death of Abel. Here we have the child of Adam who was created by the demiurge, trying to eliminate the child born from Eve who was created by Abba. These two-character traits are shown throughout the entire old testament.
In Genesis 24:3 Abraham asks his servant to swear by the Lord “the God of Heaven and the God of Earth” regarding a wife for Isaac. Although “Lord” is shown as singular, why mention two Gods, the God of Heaven and the God of earth, if he was referring to one God would he not simply say “the God of Heaven and Earth”??
In the Gnostic Paul:
Why does Paul address these two groups in two different ways? Why are some chosen to understand deeper secrets of the scriptures and others not? Why would Paul not want the “Jews”, those living according to the law, to fully understand as well??? Obviously living under the law with its many rules and sacrifices was not working. Through sacrifice they were not turning from those things separating them from Abba but simply offering sacrifice. Repentance requires confession and a turning away from the sin. Not merely a routine of sin and sacrifice and sin again. Paul speaks of the law being written on the hearts of the “Gentiles”, could it be that some are born with the inherited nature of Abba within them, as Paul states, the law written on their hearts, and others born under the bondage of the demiurge seeking God through adherence to the written law, rules and routine, making understanding the symbolism more difficult and less desirable for them? This would give reason to why people who have never heard of Jesus in remote parts of the world or who worship God through different faiths, show Jesus’ love, kindness, compassion and joy in their lives in such a beautiful way.
Jesus came to not only overthrow Satan but also to overthrow the power of the demiurge and his captivity over Abba’s children. Jesus also spoke in parables which cause us to dig deep and search in order to understand. Jesus wants us to find the pathway back to his Father, Abba. That’s what he came for. That’s what he died for. He loves us that much!
Jesus brought the love that the demiurge was incapable of giving and showed us the way back to Abba. Written by Bev. G