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

Monday, September 30, 2019

on being "lite"

The Lite Church
Home of the 15-minute sermon
The 45-minute service
And the 7.5% tithe
We have only 8 commandments, your choice
Sugar free grape juice and gluten free bread
Everything you’ve wanted in a church, and less
                     Source unknown – a cartoon many years ago

Sometimes Jesus really makes it tough
I mean seriously!?

Just when we think we have this whole Jesus thing figured out
Just when we are getting comfortable


We run across something that blows our socks off
And maybe a few other undergarments as well

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple… So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions”

There is no ducking that passage
Following Jesus is tough work
It demands a radical letting go
A radical allegiance
A radical cost

And, Jesus tells us, we must “count the cost”

We cannot avoid it, or pretend it is not there
Or we will be like a real estate mogul who gets in over his head
And goes bankrupt
And cannot finish the job

The trick is this
Knowing which cost we are avoiding?

The fact is, we all are masters of avoidance
We just pick different things to avoid
And different things to cling to

It’s a “twofer”
We avoid avoiding by patting ourselves on the back
For the things we fuse with

So one person might hold on, for dear life
to the idea of inerrant literalism,
and thus assume “they” are the ones who are true believers
while at the same time refusing to marry a couple of mixed race

Another person might fuse, hold on for dear life
to what they see as a “pro-life” stance,
but then turn a blind eye to caged children,
or children being gunned down in schools…
and totally miss the incongruity

Yet another person might be ready to side
with every oppressed person in the world,
the poor person,
the person of color
the immigrant,
but will then judge and ridicule those who struggle
with those issues

we can argue whether all “sins of omission are equal”
but my point is simply this

what Jesus calls us to do is to figure out what it is
we are fused with?
what is it we cannot let go?

our own sense of righteousness?
our wealth?
our guns?
our racism?
our hate?
our anger?
our literalism?
our political ideologies (when they don’t match the teachings of Jesus)?

I have things I need to let go of
Anger (right now) is one,
So is my tendency to judge
So is my fear

I have things that cause me to treat others
Talk about others
Think about others
Feel about others

In ways that are not “Jesus”

What about you?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

the problem with tribalism

“Tribalism is really a form of egoism. It's all about my people, my religion, me, me, me.”
                                Marty Rubin

For the people of Israel
In the time of Jesus
Being part of the tribe was a big deal

We are the “children of Abraham”

To which Jesus, pointing to the rocky ground of Palestine succinctly replied
“Out of these rocks God can raise up children of Abraham”

Which is another way of saying “get over yourself”

They didn’t
And sadly, neither have we

I keep thinking about what is going on in our country
At all the ills, that seem to be multiplying
Like bed bugs on a mattress

And keep coming back to the same problem
The fact that we seem to look at reality through the myopic eyes of ego

It’s all about “me”

Why are people OK with kids in cages?
With terminally ill children being kicked out of hospitals?
With hungry children being denied school lunches?
With our natural resources being plundered by the very rich?
With angry people walking around with AR-15s
With women being minimized and oppressed?
And LGBTQI people being demonized?
(just to mention a few ills)?

Its all about what can only be called
Essential selfishness

Each of us focusing first on ourselves
Me First
America First

I come first
My religion comes first
My country comes first
My power comes first
My wealth comes first

And anything that I see as a threat
Anything I think will erode my wealth
My power
My privilege

Has got to go
Has got to be removed

Brown people?  Gone!
Black people? Incarcerated, put away where they belong!
Poor people?  Ignored (no way am I going to share any resources that could come to me with ‘them’, those lazy moochers, those pathetic losers)
The plant? Expendable!
My neighbor?  Inconsequential!

And so decision by decision
Cruelty by Cruelty
Abuse by Abuse
We are creating a “power over”,
privilege soaked world that is the antithesis of “the Kingdom of God”

A Kingdom which, by the way, we are to bring into being here, now,
by the way we love
(Yes, that really is what Jesus really implied!  Pay attention the next time you say the Lord’s Prayer)

At one point, Jesus called his key followers, the “inner circle” together,
and he told them this
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”

Right now we have leaders (in both the realm of politics and religion)
Who have chosen the wrong way to “greatness”

And the result is on the news every day
Every day, a new insult to the way of the Sacred
A new lie
A new abuse of power
A new capitulation to the politics of greed
A new assault on the way of compassion
And generosity
And healing
And love

What we are doing right now is no way to become great as a nation
It is no way to be authentic as a church

There is only one way
To do what Jesus taught
To let go of the tribalism that takes us into such dark places
To let go of the essential selfishness

And to go the way of essential generosity
And love

Saturday, September 28, 2019

religious coercion is an oxymoron

Religious coercion is certainly not a desirable goal. My revered teacher and mentor, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, frequently noted that “religious coercion is an oxymoron.”

This is because when a ritual act is coerced by an external political force, it ceases to have any religious or spiritual significance. Quite the opposite, in fact: it only enhances anti-religious antagonisms, pushing the unwilling participant much further away from true Divine service and commitment….

In the final analysis, it is not through enforced laws, but rather by inspiring love, that we must attempt to express the glories of Shabbat. And love means accepting with love even those who decide to reject the laws of Shabbat.
                                         Shlomo Riskin, The Jerusalem Post  9/30/19

Religious coercion is an oxymoron
Because behaviors that are coerced, ceased to have religious or spiritual significance

Fundamentalist, authoritarian faiths
Almost always make this mistake

They make the mistake of thinking that they can
people into faith
or at least a semblance of faith

In America there are many who believe that by legislating certain things
and plastering “In God we Trust” on school walls
and making a show of their religious piety
on the public stage

they can make America “godly”

they are wrong

When people who are not “in” the system already
(evangelical Christianity)
See the Christian right screaming about abortion,
They don’t see people who are “pro-life”
They see people who are blind to the pain and struggle of women who are in horrible, often tragic situations

When they see Christian extremists pushing laws that minimize, marginalize
and even demonize people who are LGBTQI
they don’t see people “standing up for Christian values”,
they see people forgetting that when God says “I love all”, God means all.

When they see people who say that Christians must “obey” they law
support laws, or interpretations of laws that put children in cages,
they don’t see Godly obedience, they see hypocrisy

God is love (the scriptures are pretty clear on that)
and the way to a God of love is not through coercion, but through love
Not through power, but through service
Not through wealth, but through generosity

God is love
and the only way to a God of love is through a choice
to love the One who loves us back

And a love relationship cannot be
an abusive, coercive relationship
A religion of love
Cannot be led by people who use an abusive, coercive style of leadership

If Evangelical Christian America wants to ‘save’ America
It needs to stop passing coercive laws
And start loving

It can’t pass laws to force people into its version of religious obedience
While at the same time caging children
Cutting supports for the vulnerable
Ignoring the healthcare crisis
Incarcerating minorities
Failing to pay a living way to workers
It can’t threaten to execute women who have abortions
It can’t give “religious” people free rein to refuse services to people who don’t “line up” with their ideology
If Evangelical American want to impact America and touch people’s lives
It has to stop being coercive, and start loving

The church (and the officials it supports)
needs to fund homeless shelters and universal health care
It needs to welcome immigrants into our midst
It needs to accept people who are LGBTQI as full members of the family of God
It needs to feed the hungry
It needs to fight for justice for all
And demand that we work toward economic inequity

It is not through coercive laws
Though the abuse of power
That we glorify God

It is through love
Agape, unconditional love

For all means all

Friday, September 27, 2019

the common good (whatever happened to)

“True democracy focuses on the public interest; it defends the common good and protects its citizens - especially the weak and the vulnerable. We maintain that no democracy can survive without the powerful notions of compassion and public service. The level of wealth inequality in this country has gotten so far out of hand, the quantity of compassion so diminished, that the very future of democracy is at stake”
                                Tavis Smiley

Whatever happened to the idea of the common good?

Even breathe the concept these days and voices scream “socialism!!!”
as if that were a sin

much as frightened Americans used to scream “Communism”.

There is no question that being there for one another is at the heart
of most world religions,

including the religions verbally claimed (but not behaviorally)
by most Americans.

As Ram Dass once said, “we are all just walking each other home”

The Bible has a few things to say about this as well
No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:24
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  1 Peter 3:8
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Galatians 5:14
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.  James 3:16
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Luke 6:35
.Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others  Philippians 2:3,4
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.  1 Timothy 6:17-19

And then of course there is that description of the early church,

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.  Acts 4:32-35

The most painful thing about what is happening in America today, is the wholesale abandonment by many, especially by those who have political power, but also by many with power within the so called church, of the common good.

A significant and powerful faction in our nation have instead embraced essential selfishness.

America First
Whites First
Christians First
Me first

From this place all that counts, is “me”
My power
My wealth
My comfort
My security

From this place what matters is

From this place what doesn’t matter are
Other people

Those are all expendable
If I am winning
If I am benefitting
(or think I am)

From this place of essentially selfishness
I don’t have to worry about those immigrants on the border
They are inconvenient, problematic, possibly costly,
And just need to go away
Or be sent away

I win
They lose
That’s OK

But its not OK

It is not OK that people die from lack of health care
It is not OK that people are homeless
It is not OK that children go hungry because of “school lunch debt”
It is not OK that children have to wear bullet proof backpacks
It is not OK that young black men are treated differently by police than young white men
It is not OK the earth is destroyed for profit

It is not OK when we as a nation
When we as individuals
Think only of ourselves

When we encapsulate ourselves
Isolate ourselves
Numb ourselves to others
See win and lose as the only options

For we are all in this together
Our job is to walk each other home
And to make sure that everyone gets home

And that means that we must look past ourselves to others
That we must love others as ourselves
That we must be people who realize that what we have is not
As the book of Acts reminds us

Our own

But a resource to be used for
The common good

Thursday, September 26, 2019

the faithful faithless

You can be a person who has a passion for God,
And be biblically centered,
And still be an enemy of Jesus

It was true when Jesus was physically on earth (think Pharisees and Sadducees)
It is true now (think many American “christians”)

In Jesus time, those who were stuck in a place
where they could not hear the words of Jesus and follow
had some specific things in common

They were into merit and power
They were into exceptionalism and exclusion
They were into purity (ethnic and religious)

Jesus was into grace and servanthood
He was into incarnation, being in the mix, and into inclusion
He was into welcome

So these people
These people who were immersed in the religious system
And who thought they were on God’s side
And, in their mind’s eye, honored and protected God and God’s way
Were actually violating the way of God
They were stumbling blocks

In the end they not only rejected Jesus
They helped kill him

In the name of God
Based upon the Bible

You can be a person who has a passion for God,
And be biblically centered,
And still be an enemy of Jesus

The litmus test is simple
Love extended and lived out
To those who are different
To those who make us uncomfortable
Because of the color of their skin
The language they speak
The faith they hold
The sexual orientation they were born with

To those who are inconvenient
Because they are poor
Or addicted
Or have am mental illness
Or are ill

The litmus test is whether we choose
Humility and service over
Exceptionalism and power (over)

Whether money, and ideology, and safety
Are more important than people.

So let us keep it simple
As we face complex things             

Let us keep it simply as we think about immigrants
And people who are LGBTQI
People who are old
People who are ill
People who are disturbed

Let us keep it simple
As we face people who speak different languages
Hold different creeds

Let us keep it simple
When people are uncomfortable and inconvenient

“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God.”
(I John 4)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

love wins

“I believe God gives people the right to say no, to resist, to refuse, to reject, to cling to their sins, to cling to their version of their story.”
                                                              Rob Bell

“I hope they burn in hell”

I’ve hear it said
So, I suspect have you

We have this thing
Those of us raised in place nominally Christian
About heaven and hell

Hell is a big deal in many churches
It is huge part of the message

Turn or burn
Behave or burn

Be the way we tell you to be, or burn

Not for a moment
Not for a day
Or a year
But for all eternity

Hell is thus very useful
It is something that can be used to control
To manipulate
To Coerce

It is also very problematic
How do we hold fast to a concept of hell where most of the people who have every lived will be placed in eternal conscious torment by a God who, we say, is Love?

How do we have a faith is that about us finding our best self
Our most loving self
If a primary motivation for faith is not the desire to transform and reconcile the world,
but the desire to avoid punishment?

And what do we do about the fact that “hell” reveals such horrible things about us?

I hope he burns in hell!
I hope she gets what she deserves?

I wonder if Jesus ever said that?
I wonder if Jesus ever thought that?

I, sadly, have
Even though I am not sure what I believe happens to us after we die
(I tend to believe we came from the Sacred, and when we die we go back to the Sacred)

Even though I tend to believe that even after a person dies, whatever happens is about restoration and reconciliation

There is a part of me that doesn’t want those I feel are evil to “get off”
I suspect they don’t

But I suspect that whatever challenge and discomfort they face comes more from a new awareness of what they have done, and who they have been,
As they see themselves in the light of God’s perfect love
Than it does from God actively punishing them, terribly, for all eternity

But there is a side of me that wishes that those people I see killing our planet
Harming the vulnerable
Neglecting the poor
Oppressing others

Would “get it”
That the Sacred would treat them the way I think they deserve
Perhaps that God would treat them with the same disdain they treated others

But God is love
And God cannot be other than love
And to that end I think whatever God does
Is aimed at change, and recreation
At restoration and reconciliation

I think God never gives us
Even though, as Bell notes
The Sacred “gives people the right to say no, to resist, to refuse, to reject, to cling to their sins, to cling to their version of their story.”

Perhaps it is true
That some will find themselves in the presence of the Sacred
And will be
And will stay
The same greed, angry, hateful people they have been on earth

And how that plays out I do not know
But I suspect being a person of hate in a world of love would be hell

Perhaps it is true that some will find themselves in the presence and go
“O my God!”
And see themselves for the first time
And in remove throw themselves into Love

I don’t know

But I do know this
There will be something next
And the Sacred will be there
And Love will be there
And Love wins

And I should be hoping for that
For every single person on this planet

Monday, September 23, 2019

Challenge of the day

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”
                                                              Dorothy Day

The challenge of the day!
To solve all the ills of the world?
To fix that person who is making me miserable?
To get my Stated Clerks to-do list completed? (its long)
To actually stick to my low sugar diet?
To get my sermon started?
To prepare for pain school?
To get in 10,000 steps?


The challenge of the day is to make that mindful journey inward
To that place at the center of who I am
To that place where the Sacred lurks
To that place which truly defines me

The challenge of the day is to connect
With the Sacred
With my created to be self

The challenge of the day is intimacy
With all that is Sacred within me
With that self that is true and authentic

The challenge of the day is to be re-created

As Paul put it in Romans (12)
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The challenge of the day is to start a revolution!
To be so changed by the Love that underlies all
That I respond differently to what I encounter the rest of this day

Respond differently to those people I encounter

For if I respond differently, they will respond (I believe, I hope)

And even if they don’t
I will have broken the pattern of anger, violence, retribution, alienation

If we are called to be anything by the Sacred
We are called to be reconcilers
We are called to help people get in touch with Sacred
In touch with themselves
In touch with one another

By my response to what comes my way
To who comes my way

I can create change
Even if only a tiny bit

And that is a start

Saturday, September 21, 2019

acceptable prayer

Maybe I was praying for him then, in my own way. Does God have a set way of prayer, a way that He expects each of us to follow? I doubt it. I believe some people-- lots of people-- pray through the witness of their lives, through the work they do, the friendships they have, the love they offer people and receive from people. Since when are words the only acceptable form of prayer?”
                                                    Dorothy Day

It is almost reflexive
When bad things happen we pray

There is a death
“Thoughts and prayers” we say

There is a terrible accident
“Thoughts and prayers”

A hurricane hits, or a tornado
“Thoughts and prayers”

Another mass shooting
“Thoughts and prayers”

And that is lovely
And meaningful

And it all helps
That love, sent winging on its way
To those in need

But perhaps the most powerful prayers
Also involve action

Not just words of love an concern
But acts of love

It is instructive that the book that follows the various stories of Jesus
(The Gospels)
Is not the thoughts and prayers of the disciples
But the ACTS of the disciples

Prayer and action
Or perhaps action moved and guided by prayer
is a powerful thing

There is a story about the kindergarten teacher
Who gave her class a "show and tell" assignment.
Each student was instructed to bring in an object to share with the class that represented their religion.

The first student got up in front of the class and said, "My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is a Star of David." 

The second student got up in front of the class and said, "My name is Mary. I'm a Catholic and this is a Rosary." 

The third student got in up front of the class and said, "My name is Tommy. I am Presbyterian, and this is a casserole."

When there is a death prayers are important
So is presence
So are mutual tears
So is food

When there is a house fire, prayers are important
So are clothes, and furniture

When there is illness, prayers are important
So is a ride to the doctor,
Or a ride to the specialist, far, far, away
So is a visit
So is a shoulder to lean against

When the trials come
Sickness, famine, poverty, hate, violence, loneliness

It is time to prayer
Not only through our words
But through the witness of our lives

“Jesus loves you, here’s a toaster”  (Rob Bell)

Friday, September 20, 2019

go where it hurts

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
                                                   Henri J.M. Nouwen

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts!

It does indeed
Compassion can only arise
When we are willing to see the brokenness,
Fear, confusing, and anguish of others

If we cannot go into that place of misery
we cannot have empathy

if we cannot see the anguish of a mother or father
from Central America,
if we cannot enter into that place where we
feel what they feel, as the sit in the middle of violence and chaos
and look at their little child

we cannot have the compassion it takes to
welcome them when after miles of trial and danger,
they show up at our border

But here is the thing
We cannot have compassion for others
Unless we have compassion for ourselves

We cannot enter into the brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish of others
Unless we are wilingl to see, and enter into
Our own brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish

Unless we have been willing to forgive ourselves
It will be very difficult to forgive others

Mourned over our own losses
We will struggle to mourn with other in their loss
For we will still be wrapped up in our own unresolved loss

Unless we are willing to see how we are weak
It will be next to impossible to be with those who are struggling
For we will still be trying to hide our weakness

We cannot welcome the immigrant at our border
With open hearts and open arms
If we do not understand, and have compassion for
Our own fears about having enough
Our own fears about safety

If we have not entered into those fears
We will respond to those who come, seeking refuge
Out of reflexive fear
Rather than from a place of understanding

Compassion means full immersion into the condition of humanity
Including our own 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Let yourself fall ill

“If you desire healing,
let yourself fall ill
let yourself fall ill.”

I don’t know about you,
but I have had moments I regret

there have been times in my life
when all has not been well

And yet, Julian of Norwich had it right
 ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well,
  and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'

there are times when my days of dysfunction
come back an haunt me

something will cue me, will dreg up a memory
a mental video tape
that strikes my soul opening old wounds

someone from my past will show up
someone who experienced me in one of those moments
when my soul was in chaos
and I was a danger to myself and others

it is like spiritual PTSD at times
and I am forced to ask whether I really believe in grace
for myself, for others (for if I can’t access grace for myself,
I probably can’t access it for others as well)

And I realize that even though I believe in
And have experienced, the transformative power of God
I have to believe it for myself
And I have to believe it for others, all others

I have to believe that no one, not even me
can “drift beyond the redemptive hand of God” (W. Wink)

It is difficult at times to become “a new creation”
Especially when we, or others, are not able to let ourselves be new
For in the end, our newness is only limited by our own ability
To accept that we can be (and hopefully are) new

Someone asked me recently, someone who knew me in different times
Who I am “now” (versus who I was then)

My quick response was “older and wiser”
But upon reflection I think what is different now from then
Is that then I lived from the outside in
And now I live (at least most of the time) from the inside out

Then I got my value from external things
From titles and positions, from the respect and adoration of others
I sought to suck value and happiness into myself from what I did
From the people I was in relationship with

That is dysfunction

Now, it is more true than not
That I find my value from that journey inward
To the center of who I am
To that place where the Sacred lives and moves

It that connection with the Sacred
And a subsequent connection with my own self
That “Child of God” self
That gives me joy, and peace
That quiets the need power, or money, success, or adoration

It is when I am living from that place
From my core
That I can then move out into the world
That I can work, and relate
Functioning from a place of fullness rather than emptiness

And that makes all the difference
In the world.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

the Third Way

Jesus abhors both passivity and violence as responses to evil. His is a third alternative not even touched by these options. . . . Jesus’ Third Way bears at its very heart the love of enemies.

Love of enemies has, for our time, become the litmus test of authentic Christian faith. Commitment to justice, liberation, or the overthrow of oppression is not enough, for all too often the means used have brought in their wake new injustices and oppressions. Love of enemies is the recognition that the enemy, too, is a child of God. The enemy too believes [they are] in the right, and fears us because we represent a threat against [their] values, lifestyle, or affluence. When we demonize our enemies, calling them names and identifying them with absolute evil, we deny that they have that of God within them that makes transformation possible. Instead, we play God. We write them out of the Book of Life. We conclude that our enemy has drifted beyond the redemptive hand of God. . . .
                                                   Walter Wink via Richard Rohr
                                                   Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way
                                                   (Augsburg Fortress: 2003), 12, 13-14, 58-59, 60-61.

“Forget black and white” someone once said, “and try on gray”
Buddha and others simple said, “try the middle way”

Some people think the middle way is the way of passivity
They believe that in this polarized world one must choose sides

Hate or Love
Inclusion or Exclusion
Selfishness or selflessness

But what if the middle way is
Purposeful, informed, spiritual response

What if my choice is not
Child of God, child of Evil
But “person who is a child of God but hasn’t figured it out yet”

Jesus was so far into the realm of the Sacred as to be Sacred
His humanity was so permeated by his Sacred nature that the distinction between
Sacred and Common became meaningless

It seems at times as if some are so permeated with evil
So far into the realm of hate and fear, violence and abuse
As to seem evil, personified

So far into that realm that they seem to be children of sin
Or Evil
Pick your word

But Jesus reminds us
That all people are Children of God
And that no person can drift beyond the redemptive hand of God

Can someone give me a “baaaaaa?!”

Remember the one lost sheep
The prodigal
The missing coin

Child of God!
Yes, that one!
This means I cannot respond to this one
No matter how difficult it might be
With hate

With wishes for destruction
(as tempting as that might be)

But it also does not mean that I simple sit back
And fail to respond
To brutality, injustice, inequity, racism, and worse.

It means I challenge what is there that is not Godly
But it means I cherish what is there that is
Even if I cannot see it.

This might means something as simple as praying
Not for the destruction of the other
But for the restoration of the other

Either path leads to an end to the evil
Either path

Be we have a ministry of reconciliation
Not a ministry of alienation and judgement

So we pray
For metanoia, change, a turn around
We pray that hate becomes love
Fear becomes faith

We respond, not by attacking and demeaning those who do not agree with us
But by asking questions, and seeking to understand

This is the third alternative
Which bears at its heart,
The love of Jesus

Not our love
For this is beyond us
But the love of God

As Wink and Rohr remind us

“It is our very inability to love our enemies that throws us into the arms of grace.” (Wink)

“Or as I, Richard, like to say, it’s when we come to the end of our own resources that we must draw upon the Infinite Life and Love within us to do what we alone cannot do.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

the death of empathy

“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection - or compassionate action.”
          Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

When I am on my walk.
In the cool of the morning
As the day is birthed

Things come into my head.
How they get there I do not know,
they just show up

Today God, the Spirit, my ruminating self,
started thinking about a certain kind of faith

I’ve been thinking a lot about faith lately

I get my lessons from the lectionary
(Weekly readings from the Bible)
And it has been wandering through the book of Hebrews

In in that book
written to people in the midst of a faith spasm
there is a section where
like a rolling driving bass rhythm
the worlds flow forth….

By faith, by faith, by faith by faith, by faith….

By faith Abel, Enoch, Noah
By faith Abraham, Sarah, Isaac
By faith Moses

By faith an entire cloud of witnesses
Left comfort,
Left certainty
Left the old

And stepped out into the unknown
Into the wilderness
And took risks,
And put their bodies on the line

Following the prompting of the Spirit

But what we see today
Is a “faith” far different from that we see in Hebrews

That faith that was costly
And it was about God
And service
And transformation
And changing the world

Indeed it was a faith focused on bringing into being a new world
The Kingdom of God

But what we see today
Is a faith that is insular
Even selfish

With this faith the focus is on “me”
It is on my salvation
And on God blessing me
And my “tribe”  (my nation, my party, my church)

It is about my righteousness
My place of privilege
My place “inside the circle”

Where this kind of faith is promoted
And it is promoted in many, many churches
(it is to the church’s advantage to make people feel they are
 Safer, strong, more loved, more righteous, better, because they are part of that church)
There is a certain kind of arrogance
A certain kind of smugness

We are God’s people
We are saved
We are the righteous

And those outside are circle?
Well they are not

They are not loved by God
They are not saved (poor things)
They are not righteous

So this dichotomy emerges
In versus out
Saved versus doomed
Righteous versus sinful
Loved versus hated

It is not that faith cannot be about comfort
Or joy, or hope
Or blessing

But Biblical faith is a far riskier thing
A far more costly thing
And it is something that does not pull people out of the world
But drives people
Eyes wide open
Into the world

Fully aware that they are a motley crew,
Fully aware that they are not

Fully aware that they are just people
Who because they are awake to God
Are called to follow the promptings of the Spirit
Wherever those promptings lead them

And be
In the midst of the mess that is this world

people who are open
And vulnerable
And generous, and caring
And welcoming

Our faith is not about us
It is about us in the world
Connected, feeling, acting in love

By faith

Monday, September 16, 2019

All the little things

“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you`ll look back and realize they were the big things.”
                                                              Kurt Vonnegut

All the little things
That make up a life

We like to think sometimes
We are defined by our careers
Our “big” accomplishments

That what matters are our degrees
Our titles
Our power
Our wealth

We are so convinced at times
that we will sacrifice time, and energy
and perhaps even love

to pursue those things, as so convince ourselves
and perhaps those around us too

that we have worth

I have done a lot of things
I have had multiple careers
I have successful, for the most part, in all of them
I have had the “titles”
I have the degrees

I have traveled the world
Touching down in 70 plus countries
And I have done things what were meaningful

And yet
None of those things
Will be
In the end
The “big things”

Instead it will be
A day on the mountain
A morning walk with the dog
Sunrise on a winter’s morning
Laughter echoing across a full table
A hug from a friend at church
An Americano from Red Horse
A trip to see the kids
Playing Lego with my grandson
Cornhole on the front lawn
Finding Disney bling for my granddaughter
Shu the cat’s morning nap on my keyboard

In the midst of all the busyness of life
And the search for success
In the middle of all the stress,
As the world divides and unravels around us

It will be the small things that we will carry with us
Into whatever
is Next

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The sin of indifference

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”
                                                                         Elie Wiesel

I remember, many years ago
Listening to a record (yes, vinyl) by Tom Lehrer
On that album of songs, full of sarcasm and irony
Was a song titled “National Brotherhood Week”

Lehrer introduces the song with a soliloquy
Which ends this way

“I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another,
and I know there are people in the world who do not love
their fellow human beings, and I hate people like that!
Here's a song about National Brotherhood Week:”

I don’t know about you, but I have a conflicted relationship with hate
I don’t like it
I don’t like it when it rises up inside my soul
And roars

Sometimes I feel as if I should not have these feelings
(although I expect hate, like every other feeling, is just a human experience)

Sometimes others tell me I should not have these feelings
And chide me, and shame me
Questioning my spirituality

And yet, it is clear that there are things God hates
The prophet Amos, speaking for God, says
“I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
    I will not look upon.

take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.”


Notice.  God does not say, “I hate you”
But God does say “I hate what you are doing”

(Side Note:  There’s a difference, between hating the action and the person,
but it’s a tricky one.
We can separate the person from the action. 
But we have to be careful we don’t consider things choices we can “hate”
that aren’t really choices… such as sexual orientation.  And it gets even more problematic when we start to think about how/why a person thinks, and acts, the way her or she does)

Amos not only suggests that God hates what is fundamentally hypocrisy
People going through the motions of worshiping
While at the same time neglecting the poor
Perpetrating injustice
And worse

He suggests that God’s people also ought to
“hate” those things too
Those things that are not good
Those things that damage other people,
Vulnerable people

That God’s people are to hate those things
that hurt people who are poor
Or old
Or ill
Or minorities
Or strangers (immigrants)

And clearly, if we fail to “hate” certain things
It is a problem.

As Wiesel so brilliantly notes, “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.”
Our hating things that are damaging and destructive
Our hating things that are killing our planet
Our hating injustice and inequity
Our hating children in cages
Our hating unjust policies
And graft and greed in high places

Is not the opposite of love
It is our fighting for love

To allow those things to be
To watch as evil eats away at people’s hope
To watch as evil refuses to protect the vulnerable
To watch as people are destroyed

That is the opposite of love