Palimpsest: Focus Forward

Focus Forward

Luke 9:51-62

To photograph in this spirit is a matter of opening ourselves to receiving. Like meditation or contemplation, photography-as-receiving requires us to cultivate an attitude of receptivity, an openness to what might be given to us. Such photography is more like meditation or a spiritual discipline than a hunt.
– Howard Zehr, Contemplative Photography

Prof. (Craig) Evans began his lecture (Miami University, 3-29-08) by explaining that in Jesus' time, bodies were washed, wrapped, and scented for their initial entombment on the day of death. The formal period of mourning lasted for seven days, a practice with ancient roots (Gen 50:10; 1 Sam 31:13). Then a year later, after the decay of the body was complete, the bones of the deceased were gathered and placed in an ossuary. The practice of ossilegium or "secondary burial" also has ancient roots and seems to have been practiced in a number of Middle Eastern cultures. One biblical example is the reburial of the bones of Saul and Jonathan by King David (2 Sam 21:12-14). Ossilegium became especially popular in Israel during the late Second Temple period, probably as a consequence of Herod the Great's ambitious building program, which provided an abundance of both limestone and people who were skilled in working with it. Evans pointed out that knowledge of the burial customs of Jesus' time can enhance our understanding of certain New Testament passages. One example is Matt 8:21-22, where a disciple of Jesus suggests temporarily leaving his Teacher to attend to his father's burial. Jesus tells the disciple, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.'' Traditionally the phrase ``the dead'' in this passage is interpreted as a reference to the “spiritually dead.''  But this saying becomes much clearer if secondary burial is in view. In that case, “the dead'' are other corpses in the family tomb. Jesus is telling the disciple that he cannot wait for the remainder of a year to pass, even though the secondary burial of one's parents was a very important responsibility in that culture, being viewed as a primary way to carry out the commandment to honor one's parents. The kingdom of God was at hand, and following the Messiah was the most urgent priority.
– Doug Ward, “Ancient Jewish Burial Practices”

And love is not the easy thing/The only baggage that you can bring
Not the easy thing/The only baggage you can bring/Is all that you can't leave behind
And if the darkness is to keep us apart/And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack/And for a second you turn back
Oh no - be strong
– U2, “Walk On”

How fitting that the Steering Committee titled this process Focus Forward - 2012 and Beyond! Centenary is a unique gathering of God’s people. Have you heard, and felt the challenge from God’s Spirit through this process we have traveled together? With the apostle Paul I urge you “do not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it.”
– Paul Murphy, “Focus Forward 2012 and Beyond: Report to Centenary UMC”

· What helps you look forward in your faith life, or your life in the church?
· How do you focus on what is in front of you, or on what you need to see?

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