Welcome

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
Us

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

Creation
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
Visible
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
Uniquely
Fully
Powerful

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

Knew
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."


Monday, January 13, 2020

God shows up


“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
Us

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

Creation
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
Visible
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

Sunday, January 12, 2020

heaven breaks loose


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
Uniquely
Fully
Powerful

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

Knew
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

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Written on the wind (love is)


"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."


Friday, January 10, 2020

Epiphany


“There's nothing better when something comes and hits you and you think 'YES'!”
J.K. Rowling

“What do we call this moment? A serendipity mixed into a nostalgia mixed into a deja vu mixed into an epiphany!”
Avijeet Das

“And for one infinitesimally brief moment, the universe peels open, and I can see everything…
Cassandra Khaw, Food of the Gods

“We returned to our palaces, these Kingdoms, but no longer at ease here in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death.”
T.S. Eliot
________________________________________________

Perhaps it is time for an epiphany
For a moment when the eyes open
And the heart soars
And the soul sings

And the mind goes “poof!”

And we go “Wow!  So that’s it!”

Perhaps, after plodding along
Seeking glimpses of the sacred
Catch hints of a star

There is a moment when we finally reach that place
Where love is born

And perhaps, it is a surprise
Perhaps when the “universe peels open’
And we see the heart of the Sacred
We find what we did not expect
We find more than we expected

Perhaps, as we gaze into the manger of our hearts
We find something more powerful
More beautiful
More profound
More grace full
More loving
Than anything we had ever conceived

And in the moment of
Epiphany
Revelation
Serendipity

We fall to our knees
Overwhelmed
Able to do nothing but receive
Until having received we can do nothing but give

Epiphany reveals not just the Sacred
Not just that God is here
Not just that God is love

But it reveals who we are
Children of God
It reveals who we can be
People of compassion and generosity
People who welcome, and serve

Epiphany is not a safe moment
For when we see
We are never the same

We can never go back to the place from whence we came
We can never take the same old road
We can never be at ease with the old ways
The old priorities, and values

We can never align ourselves
Ever again
With the powers that would dominate
Abuse
Use

We can never again enable
Those who would harm children
Abandon the poor
Create inequity
Deny justice

Of those who would exclude

we must go another way
the way of servanthood and generosity
rather than the way of power and greed

So it is time for an epiphany
It is time to let God stun us with Sacred Love
And Sacred Joy
And Sacred Hope
And Sacred Peace

It is time for us to let the Sacred be so present
In us
That the darkness is dispelled by the light
And we see
And exclaim

yes

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The sin of exceptionalism


Of far more significance, and the true and tragic lesson of the epic descent into The Terror, is the summons to vigilance against ourselves — that we should not assume that we are righteous, and our enemies evil; that we can see clearly, and to others are blinded by malice or folly; that we can abrogate the fragile rights of others in the name of our own certainty and all will be well regardless.
          David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France
____________________________________

Our word for today is “exceptionalism”

Exceptionalism is the perception or belief that something is exceptional,
superior in some way. 

The idea that something is exceptional is not inherently bad
Some things are exceptional

I have had exceptional meals
And even exceptional cups of coffee
I have heard singers who were exceptional
And met people who, frankly, were exceptional
(although if they truly were exceptional they did not consciously think of themselves that way)

But Exceptionalism
To me that is a different matter

Exceptionalism equals arrogance
Exceptionalism means exalting ones self (AKA narcissism)
or one’ country to a place that is
unassailable

We’re number one!
We are the best

Pride is one thing!
I like pride
Exceptionalism is something else

Something twisted

Because exceptionalism blinds
It takes us to a place where we can’t see others
And worse,
It takes us to a place where we cannot see ourselves

With exceptionalism we cannot see the other person’s pain
We cannot see their desires, their hopes, their expectations

We can only see ourselves
We can only see how that person can benefit us
Or hurt us
We can only see them as pawns or enemies

And we hold ourselves apart, above
Alone

What is even more devastating is the fact that with exceptionalism
We cannot see ourselves honestly

The very idea of exceptionalism makes it impossible
for us to truly evaluation our attitudes and actions

America, my country right or wong?
No!
Its “Amercia, my country, and we are always right
And if something goes wrong?
It’s not our fault

With exceptionalism we are always the hero
Or always the victim
We are never the perpetrator, never the villain

And this inability to be ethically, spiritually, and morally honest?

That leads to brutality
To behaviors never examined, always excused

Children in cages
Walls
The deportation of good people
Who have contributed to our society
Brutal military moves that discount other people, other countries
Wars that about power and money, not freedom and morality

We want power
We want wealth
We want to feel comfortable and safe
So anything goes, if we do it

Because we are exceptional

And finally we get down that really ugly part
Being exceptional we put ourselves above consequences

We don’t believe there should be consequences
(because we are NEVER wrong)
We don’t’ believe there every will be consequences
We fall into a false sense of invulnerability

We don’t believe anything can ever come back to haunt us
No matter what we do, we will win
Come out on top
And we believe no one would EVER hold us accountable

9/11 should have destroyed that myth
It didn’t
Our recent assassination is proof positive

There are those voices
I am hearing them from all sides
Suggesting those countries we have invaded occupied and attacked
Should not even think about responding
Because we will target them
Their people
Their culture
Their heritage
Their sacred sights

Exceptionalism

Exceptionalism, in this case let’s call it what it is
Nationalism (not patriotism)
Makes for an abuser
Nations can be malignant narcissists too

In the end exceptionalism harms everyone
Those who hold it
Those who are abused by it

Which is why Jesus challenged us to go a different way
Remember all that stuff he said
About humility?
About repentance?
About putting others first? (No America First, sorry)
About kindness
The list goes on!!!!

When John the Baptism saw exceptionalism, he challenged it
“You brood of vipers”

When Jesus saw exceptionalism, he challenged it

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

I love my country
But it is my fear that America Exceptionalism
(which is downright false,  we are pretty low, and sinking on most indicators
46th in health for example.)
Will lead us into an “epic descent into terror”

It will make us even more abusive
Less empathic and kind
Less Generous
More aggressive

It is my fear that we will become
If we are not already (under the current administration)

The world’s tormenter.
The country that blindly acts in greedy, abusive, destructive way

There is a generous side to our nation
There are kind and beautiful people in it
But exceptionalism is a cancer that may be killing what is good

We must be vigilant, and honest, regarding our own behavior
we must not assume that we are righteous, and our enemies evil;
We cannot believe that our behavior is always honorable
While others are driven by malice or jealousy

We must learn where true greatness lies 

This is greatness (Philippians 2)
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross



Wednesday, January 8, 2020

be great


Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
                                         Martin Luther King Jr.

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.
                                         Mother Teresa

_____________________________________________

You have heard it said, but I say
You have heard it said, but I say

Jesus taught a different way
A way counter to the way of the world

Make no mistake about it

The world teaches the way of power and privilege
Jesus teaches the way of emptying one’s self of power and privilege

The world teaches the way of accumulation
Jesus taught the way of giving

The world teaches the way of protection and safety
Jesus taught the way of vulnerability and risk

“You have heard it said, and eye for eye, tooth for tooth”
Get your “backs!”
If they hurt you, hurt them

“But I say”
“If any one slaps you, on the right cheek
 turn the left cheek to them as well”

No wonder so many have a problem with Jesus
They (we) have claimed Jesus
They avow their allegiance
They suggest that Jesus is “on our side”

They go to church
And pound Bibles
And wear crosses
And talk about Godly values

But then, fundamentally, ignore most of what Jesus taught

This is the great divide that has been revealed
in today’s “christianity’

Power versus service
Accumulation versus generosity
Grace versus merit

We must face this discrepancy

John at the beginning of his Gospel said the light has come into the world
And the darkness cannot overcome it

True

But the holders of the light can put it under a basket

We must face the fact that perhaps those most focal about being
The people of the light, are the ones hiding it.

We hide the light when we side with power over servant hood
We hide the light when we send drones rather than food
We hide the light when we oppressively shame those who are vulnerable,
rather than do the work of grace and love, and lift them up
We hide the light when we carry a gun into church
We hide the light when we think the Gross National Product is more important
than economic equity
We hide the light when we ignore the fact that minimum wage people must work two
or three jobs just to get by
We hide the light when we close our eyes to the presence of racism
We hide the light when we become addicted to military might, and spend more on
the instruments of death, than to health care and education.
We hide the light when we would rather profit from the earth rather than protect it.

The fundamental divide in American Christianity right now
Is between those who have chosen the way of power over servanthood
And wealth over generosity.

And there is no question, about which side of that divide
Jesus dwells

This is a powerful reality!
It is not a new reality
In the garden of Eden the temptation of the serpent was all about power
“eat this and you will be like God”

In the wilderness the temptations offered to Jesus were all about the
misuse of power
Not the use of power to do bad things
But the improper use of power to do good things
That would then turn bad

Because the way power was used, to thrill, to impress, to control,
Would be an affront to the way God works (as revealed by Jesus)

As we stand in America today
And watch the stock market soar, at great cost to the poor
And watch our government assassinate members of other governments
And watch politicians accumulate great wealth, while leaving “the people” in poverty
And see racism and nationalism rise

We have a choice
To choose the way of power and wealth
And align ourselves with the forces whose only agenda
Is “winning”

Or to choose the way of servanthood and generosity
And resist those forces with our voices, and our votes
But mostly by our behaviors

We must  believe in grace not merit
Generosity not greed
Freedom not coercion
Inclusive not exclusion
Lifting people up, not pushing them own (for our benefit)
Forgiving rather than retribution

For Jesus’ way is not our way
If is the way of love

And we need
Hearts full of grace
And souls generated by love


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

another way


An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.
                      Attributed to Gandhi, but more likely a description
                     of his philosophy by Louis Fischer

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
                      Isaac Asimov, Foundation

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
                      E.F. Schumacher

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
                     Mahatma Gandhi, The Essential Gandhi

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
                     Jesus (Sermon on the Mount)
________________________________________________

The son of a President tweets
“Don’t mess with the best”

A few days later a drone kills a person

People cheer

I suspect in the coming days more people will die

This is the way it works in this world
Retaliation and retribution
Violence responded to with violence
Death begetting death

This is the way we think in this world
If you have the power, you have the right to use it
The more power, the more powerfully you respond
Might makes right

And if you are America?
Ah, well, we are exceptional
We are the best
And you don’t mess with the best

I stayed awake last night thinking about violence and war
Thinking about our blind acceptance, in America, that any violence
we perpetrate is in the cause of freedom, or at least safety
About our almost idolatrous love of military might,
and the military itself.

I recognize that it is complex
Did we need to fight against Hitler?  Yes, we did
And Japan, yes

I cannot simply say that in those instances we should have simply watched
as powerful nations assaulted, enslaved, and killed

But
I struggle with the idea that violence and war are normally the best response
And I suspect that in many cases, war was not the only answer
And was not the best answer

And I suspect that in many cases the cause of war is not a threat to freedom or “the right”, but is instead greed, and a lust for power. 

Jesus understood human kind very well
And he understood how it works
He understood that the way of retribution was the path to destruction

He told us not to do it
Not to insist that an affront to our exceptionalism is an excuse to kill

Instead he insisted that we address the cause of the violence directed toward us
If a person tries to take our shirt, we remove that persons need for shirt by giving
him or her a shirt.

If a person needs safety, asylum, we don’t round them up and put them into camps (violence), we give the asylum.

If a person is hungry, we feed them, so they do not have to resort to acts of theft or robbery to get food

If a person is homeless we don’t round them up and throw them into jail (or as proposed, into buildings that will be little better than jails) we help them find a home.  We pay them a living wage.  We deal with the cost of housing.  We treat their mental health issues.

I know there will be politicians today cheering our retributive, preemptive violence
Perhaps some pastors too
Many others will cheer as well, refusing to look in the mirror and see how our
behavior as a nation has shaped the response of the middle east toward us as nation.

I am not cheering
Instead I am sick at heart

In 1944 Henry Powell Spring in his book of aphorisms, “What is Truth” talked about the way of retribution.  He wrote. 

“The Spirit and Beings continue unselfishly to maintain life upon our planet, restoring us nightly, and forgiving us our wilful blindnesses far beyond our spiritual or bodily capacity of repayment. If the Spirit, Who is Life, exacted an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth, this world would indeed be peopled with the blind and the toothless.”

On this one I am not going with the leaders of our nation, who decided to use a drone and strike.  I am going to side with Jesus

Who challenges us to respond with generosity
Not with violence
Who challenges us to overcome evil with good, not with more evil

And I am going to pray
Pray for peace
Pray for those who will be harmed or killed, if peace does not prevail
Pray for those in leadership, that their hearts may be stirred
Pray that we abandon our arrogance and exceptionalism
And pray that the better angels of our nature (Lincoln) might be awakened

God, help us all
Have mercy upon us