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

Friday, January 17, 2020

an object lesson in love

There are things you can’t reach. But
You can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god.
And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier.
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.”
                                          Mary Oliver

I have decided God is a visual
Yeah, I know, there is that whole “word of God” thing

God spoke
God spoke
God spoke

But what happened when God spoke?
There was light
And land
There were oceans and mountains and streams
There we fish, and animals, and birds

And those strange creatures
Image bearers

God spoke
And the “Word became flesh”

It seem as if whenever the Sacred
Really wants to make sure we get the point
Sacred gets visual

The parting of the seas
Manna from heaven
Pillar of cloud, pillar of fire

That tent!
A symbol and sign that God was
“tenting” among the people
The ark of the covenant

Over and over again God shows up
In signs and wonders
Gideon and the fleece
The wind!
The earthquake!
The still small voice

The altar and the prophets of Baal

Then there was Jesus
And that whole manger thing!
And the baptism in the Jordan

Jesus teaching
And using visuals
Water into wine
Fish and loaves

Jesus and the cross
God showing us what sacred love looks like

When God speaks, things happen
When God is present, we not only feel the love
We see it

Which should say something to us
James got it

That faith
Is a pretty meager thing if it does not become
If it does not show up in how we talk
How we give
How we forgive
How we care
(faith without works is dead)
This is not about merit
It’s not even, really, about us

It is about what God, working through us
In a grace full way

Looks like

And I think the fact is
When we have awakened to Sacred Presence
When we have set aside ego enough
When we have set aside our priorities and agendas enough
(when we have died to self)
so that God has room to work

God shows up

People are looking for the Sacred
They are looking everywhere
With arms wide open

They are looking for the Sacred in the sunrise
In the beauty of the earth
They are looking for it in sacred tomes
And in times of silence, and times of prayer

And they might well find the Sacred in all those things
But they should also see the Sacred in us
for we are God’s workmanship
we are God’s art

we are meant to be
A sacred object lesson
In love

Thursday, January 16, 2020

God is all in

Jesus loves us this we know, for his baptism tells us so.  Sinful ones to him belong.  We go down, and he’s along
                                                              Dale Brunner

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
                                                              E.E. Cummings

When we think God
as “with us”
as coming into time and space

we think of his birth
that weird and wonderful entrance
as a child
of a mother born
with pain and tears, and I suspect, joy and relieved laughter too

When we think of God
Identifying with humanity
We think of the manger
That humble, common, earthy birth

But when we think of Jesus identifying with sinful humanity
With greedy, hateful, selfish humanity
With violent, abusive, destructive humanity

We need to think of his baptism

Of that time when Jesus,
“God’s beloved son”
The one who expressed the reality of the Sacred

Went into the dirty waters of the Jordan with all those
Miserable sinners.

John’s Baptism was a baptism of repentance
It was an act of contrition
The people who flocked to the Jordan to
be dunked by a wild eyed, scruffy, politically incorrect prophet

were people who knew
if they knew nothing else
that they had not lived up to their identity as “the people of God”

they were remorseful, and regretful
and penitent

and their journey to the river was a statement
we have sinned against God and against humanity
we do not deserve to be part of this family of faith
we are prodigal

And while the religious elite of the time
Stood on the banks and watched,
Amused perhaps by the antics of the camel hair wearing
Locust eating baptizer
And by the foolish folk
Being dunked into the dirty water of the Jordon

Jesus jumped right in

They went down
He went along

Showing through that action
That he was, and is
“all in” with humanity

There are no contingencies here
Just total identification
Just love

He stepped into the muddy waters of the Jordan
And all heaven broke loose

And all those people
Soggy robes, wet hair
Tired souls, fearful hearts and all

It was OK

Knew that God is love
And all those people were set free
To do life a different way

For there is nothing as empowering
Nothing as freeing, as unconditional love

This is what the Sacred does when it comes
It touches us with love
It “reveals that deep inside us something is valuable,
worth listening to,
worthy of our trust,
sacred to our touch.

This is what the Sacred does
as it comes as Spirit, that same Spirit that came to Jesus
It sets us free
To start again
To create not just new beginnings, but new endings

It sets us free to do life a different way
I allows us, because we are certain of Sacred love,

To risk
“curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight”
To risk generosity
To risk forgiveness
To risk kindness
To risk love

It free us to be who we truly are
Sacred children

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Love is all around

"True evangelical  faith cannot lie dormant.  It clothes the naked, it feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harm it, it binds up that which is wounded, it has become all things to all people."

"The regenerated do not go to war, nor engage in strife.  They are children of peace who have beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning forks, and know no war.

"We who were formerly no people at all, and who knew of no peace, are now called to be...a church...of peace.  True Christians do not know vengeance.  They are the children of peace.  Their hearts overflow with peace.  Their mouths speak peace, and they walk in the way of peace."
                                                              Menno Simons

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes
Love is all around me and so the feeling grows
It's written on the wind, it's everywhere I go
So if you really love me, come on and let it show
                                                              The Troggs

100 years ago my father was born
the son of a preacher man

100 years ago my father born
into a heritage of peace

Peter Albert Kliewer
My grandfather, was a Mennonite ministery
A humble man who rode a circuit

Sharing God’s love, as he saw it
To the Cheyenne tribe in Montana

Peter Albert Kliewer
Was a man of peace

And he passed that love on to my father
Who instead of bearing arms in World War II, was a doctor
and was on the fringe of combat, serving in the Philippines at the end of the war.
A healer, helping repair the damage of war’s violence

My Uncle, David, against the wishes of his father
Had joined the Marine Air Corp
And a member of Marine Corps Fighter Squadron VMF-211
was on Wake Island, which was attacked on the same day as Pearl Harbor

A little over two weeks later, he was on a Japanese destroyer
Headed to prisoner of war camp in Japan, where he struggle to survive
until the end of the war.

Uncle Dave was an amazing man, who, recovering from near death
Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Medical school,
And joined my father as a healer

He also became an advocate for peace
His first position was as a doctor on Maui, and then,
For many years, he practiced in Corvallis, Oregon.

But he had been changed by war
And hated war

When America got involved in Nicaragua,
He was offended, and so in protest at our interference
Learned Spanish and spent time teaching at the medical school in Managua

He and my Aunt got bikes, and believing that the only way to end hate
Is to connect with others in love
Bike through eastern Europe before the Iron Curtain fell
Seeking to forge bonds of love and friendship

On the 50th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan
He returned to that country
Found the commandant who abused him
And actively offered reconciliation
He and his former enemy became friends

He returned whole hearted to at least one aspect of the faith of his youth
the love of peace

I think I inherited the peace gene
I have never been in combat
If I had served I would have gone in as a medic, or a chaplain

But I, like my father, have been on the edge of combat
I was involved in disaster relief work in northern Iraq after the first Gulf war
I was involved in efforts in Bosnia
In Kenya, working with Somalian refugees

I cannot, ever cheer war
While I cannot claim to be a pacifist
I do believe war is an extreme result
That only happens when we have failed
As  John Steinbeck suggests,
“All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal.”

It should not be sought
It should not be entered into impulsively
It should not be entered into gleefully, or boastfully
And it should always be entered into with restraint
Not with the promise of disproportionate destruction

If we cheer the path to war, there is something wrong
If we gloat over the prospect of harming others, there is something wrong

For war squanders love
It squanders resources that could be used for good

And war kills
It not only kills love
It kills children
It kills innocents

Even so called “good wars” kills
As Gandhi reminds us
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

I have been thinking about war these last few days
As assassinations happen
And retaliatory rockets fly
And promises of profligate violence are made

And I have thought about the fact that we are all children of God
All of us
And that we all carry the Sacred in us

I have thought about the fact that we are permeated by Sacred Love
And about the fact, which is made fresh to me each morning
That his world is permeated by Sacred love

I love the words of the Troggs, in that song from my youth
I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes
Love is all around me and so the feeling grows
It's written on the wind, it's everywhere I go
So if you really love me, come on and let it show

Love is not just around us
It is in us
And it is in these moments
That we need to dig deep in our souls, and find it
And let it show

And as God’s people we need to ask hard questions
We need to champion restraint
We need to insist on absolute honesty (which we did not get the last time we went to war)
We need to think about the fact that war kills
That it destroys, beloved children of God

Those of us who claim Christ?
I believe we need to be people of peace.

I find that the words of Menno Simon, spoken so long ago, now resonate in my soul.

“True Christians do not know vengeance.  They are the children of peace.  Their hearts overflow with peace.  Their mouths speak peace, and they walk in the way of peace."