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Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Traveling light

… you know this moment as a new beginning

with no idea of what is arriving,

only for the sudden departure

of the burden you have been carrying for a lifetime,

leaving instead an unfamiliar lightness

as you struggle not to ascend toward the sun.

 

How you no longer need

to carry this heavy stone in your arms,

on your back, in your throat,

and you wonder why you didn’t lay it aside long ago

and you see how your curled fingers

have become frozen in their grasp.

                     Christine Valters Paintner

___________________________________________

 

yesterday was a day from hell

a spinning journey down through the circles of the inferno

through limbo, lust and gluttony

 

into the deeper reaches of greed, anger

heresy (trying to claim God for agendas and actions that are ungodly)

to violence, fraud

and treachery

 

I know of course that some of this is in the eye of the beholder

and perhaps others think

we are climbing Jacob’s ladder

higher, higher

 

but for me these are dark times

and my heart has been gathering stones

proverbial pebbles in the heart

and growing heavy

 

until even as I walk the backroads

with happy dog dancing by my side

even as God’s grandeur

flames out like shining from shook foil (G M Hopkins)

all around me

I find my mind and soul are tired

and

all is smeared and blurred

 

and I am cast down, bowed by the weight of it all

and my heart echoes the words of the Psalmist (55)

 

“My heart is in anguish within me;     the terrors of death have fallen on me”

and I would fly away

far away

to a place of shelter

 

and yet I cannot run

I must stay

and I must walk this road

and I must do what I can

 

to love my neighbor

to create community

to calm and heal rather than rant and rave (as I am wont to do)

 

but I cannot carry love and hope

if my hands are full of anger and fear

if I hold resentment in a death grip

 

if I would ascend

I must let go of so much

and travel light

 

I must hand my burdens over (Psalm 55)

all that fear, and anger

all that resentment

to the One who can (and will) carry them

 

I must die (as Jesus insisted I must)

to all that blurs the Sacred image in me

to all that hinders and binds

 

I must die and be reborn

not just once, but over and over

each moment

endless resurrection

 

rising up

out of the ashes

bearing good news

 

 

 

 

 

i


Monday, September 28, 2020

God is in ALL

Either we acknowledge that God is in all things,

or we have lost the basis for seeing God in anything

                               Richard Rohr

 

God is “within all things but not enclosed, outside all things, but not excluded, above all things, but not aloof, below all things but not debased

                               Saint Bonaventure

 

Therefore, open your eyes, alter the ears of your spirit, open your lips and apply your heart so that in all creatures you may see, hear praise, love and worship, glorify and honor your God, lest the whole world rise against you

                               Saint Bonaventure

_________________________

 

it makes a difference,

how we see creation, the world we live in

this planet with its mountains and streams

its flora and fauna

 

it makes a difference how we see especially

those unique animals who walk the earth

 

those human creatures who are close around us

those who are only images, flickering across a TV screen

or images plastered on Facebook

 

do we see

do we understand that God is woven into everything

that everything is sacred

that every person is a precious soul?

 

is it not a problem

is it not perhaps the problem

 

that we pick and choose what is Sacred

and in whom the Sacred dwells?

 

that we do not see God in everything

in everyone?

 

what happens when we fail to see

this planet as the original incarnation of God?

 

how do we treat a planet that is merely

a collection of creatures and elements

that we can use for our benefit?

 

we abuse it

 

how do we treat people

whose skin is a different color

who believe a different creed

who adhere to a different ideology…

 

how do we treat people who are struggling

with poverty

or mental illness

or addiction…

 

if we do not see them as those in whom the Sacred One dwells?

 

we devalue them

and then exclude them, oppress them, and yes

kill them

 

what do the eyes of a right wing militant see

as they pull the trigger of their “big gun”?

 

what does the policeman see, as he

crushes the life out of a person of color?

 

what do I see, when I see a person with a MAGA hat?

 

do I see God?

 

The fact is that if I start to choose in whom God dwells

then I deny God

 

did I just say that?

 

Yes

 

When we start to pick and choose in whom God dwells

If we do not open our eyes,

alter the ears of your spirit,

open our lips and speak words of grace

 

if we do not apply our hearts so that in all creatures we see,

hear praise, love and worship, glorify and honor God,

 

then eventually

the whole world will rise against us

 

our hate

our anger

our disrespect

with rebound against us

 

yes, yes, yes

I know

the Sacred is so terribly blurred at times

as to be invisible

 

yes, yes, yes

I know there is much out there that is profane

and yes, yes, yes

evil abounds, and must be addressed and challenged

 

yes, today I will probably see a person act and not see God

hear a speak and not see God

 

but still God is there

in that one I would discount and devalue

 

if we can grab hold of that truth

however inconvenient it is

if we can grab hold of that truth

however imperfectly we do it

 

it can alter the eyes and ears of our Spirit

and change our words

from “God destroy them” to “God forgive them”

 

it can restore the humanity to those we have chosen to dehumanize

 

it is a starting place

if only that

 

_________________

 

And now may the God who suffers us to endure

And gives us such loving care

Give us a mind united toward one another

Because of our common loyalty to Jesus Christ

 

Then as one person we will sing from the heart the praises of God

The father of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

So open your hearts to one another, as Christ as opened his heart to you

And God will be glorified

                               (Romans 15:7, JB Phillips, adapted slightly)


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Can we be honest to God?

Secondly, white Christianity suffers from a bad case of Disney Princess theology. As each individual reads Scripture, they see themselves as the princess in every story. They are Esther, never Xerxes or Haman. They are Peter, but never Judas. They are the woman anointing Jesus, never the Pharisees. They are the Jews escaping slavery, never Egypt. For citizens of the most powerful country in the world, who enslaved both Native and Black people, to see itself as Israel and not Egypt when studying Scripture is a perfect example of Disney princess theology. And it means that as people in power, they have no lens for locating themselves rightly in Scripture or society — and it has made them blind and utterly ill-equipped to engage issues of power and injustice. It is some very weak Bible work.

                               Erna Kim Hackett

________________________________________

 

“once upon a time”

there was a man named Abraham

another named Joseph

and another named Moses

 

“once upon a time”

there was a woman named Mary

actually a lot of women named Mary (all important)

 

“once upon a time”

 

there are lots of stories in the Bible

stories about individuals, yes

but stories that are,

when all is said and done, cosmic, universal

 

every story in that book is my story

your story

 

and the question we must always ask

as we read those stories

 

is who am I in this story?

which one of these characters is me?

 

(We can do the same thing with the prophets -where is my country, my political party in

 these words of warning?  Is God talking to me, to my country?  Or the letters.  If this letter (say Romans) showed up in my mail box, what things in my life would that letter be addressing?  Has Paul been peeking through my window?  Or the window of my church? That voyeur!)

 

But when we ask that question, we must ask it with honesty

And we have to be prepared to understand, that we may not like the answer!

 

We are well prepared to be the people of faith in the story.

 

We are even prepared to take on the weaknesses of the Biblical heroes,

for many of those heroes have “feet of clay”

many of them have doubts, and fears

 

and we are good with that

 

but are we willing to see ourselves

as “them”

as those who are functionally the “enemies” of God and God’s way?

 

can I recognize the fact that, when reading about John the Baptist

wailing his way out of the wilderness,

that I may be more likely to be one of those tagged as a “viper”

than one of those humbly standing in line to be washed?

 

can I see myself, important and busy person as I am, more as the priest who hurries by the beaten and bloody traveler, than as the Good Samaritan?

 

Can we as a country see ourselves as oppressive Egypt, rather

than enslaved Israel

 

Can we see, in our armor clad police, the echoes of the Pharaoh’s soldiers, chasing down the children of Israel?

 

Can we as the church see ourselves as those Amos is speaking to when he says

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me…

Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your [guitars]

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

 

for the failure of the White church over so many years to insist that Black Lives Matter?

For our failure to understand that unless black lives matter as much as white lives, we cannot say all lives matter.  That we, as whites, are merely defaulting to the place of “I matter!” (which is not untrue, but still…)

 

It is not just our own, individual faces we need to see in the mirror

It is our political party

It is our nation

for in the Bible the individual and the nation, the community, the people, are always intertwined and cannot be artificially separated

 

As I preach the lectionary this week

Am I oppressed Israel, hoping for the angel of death to pass over,

or am I oppressive Egypt? (Exodus 12)

 

Am I the sentinel of Ezekiel (33) shouting warming, or am I the recalcitrant one who refuses to listen?

 

Am I the righteous one, chastising the sinner, or the sinner who refuses to change?

(Matthew 18).  Or will I just skip that and jump to the comfort of “where two or three are gathered, there is God”?

 

Am I the one who has put on the armor of love, or am I the one wallowing in the darkness of resentment (Romans 13)?

 

If I am honest, I am everywhere

I am the hero and villain alike

I am good and I am not so good

I am faithful, and I am faithless

I am loving, and I am not

I am kind, and brutal, generous and grasping

 

It’s a right mess

But thanks be to God, for the freedom I have to be honest

For the Sacred takes me as I am, and we go from there…..

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Romans 7:25)