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

Saturday, September 24, 2022

slightly wrinkled

 It is early fall, late September

I should have Advent on my mind, but instead, I find myself thinking about resurrection


It is Easter morning, and Jesus stands there in the garden

Not glowing

Not an angel without wings

But a scruffy dude with dirt under his nails

Who looks more like a migrant worker than the King of Kings


It is later, in the upper room,

and Jesus enters, not with magnificent wholeness

but will pierced hands a feet

and hole in his side so big you could stick your hand in it.


Later still there he is

Trudging down a dusty road

And later still, smelling like smoke and fish

Cooking breakfast


What does it mean to be raised to new life?

That is the question that lingers as we move from

The vibrant energy of summer into fall

And creep our way toward the cold death of winter


I would like to think it means we

emerge from the tombs of our own making

without spot or wrinkle,

whiter than snow,




but I suspect that when we are born from above

we emerge from the tomb (like Lazarus)

slightly wrinkled

with our resurrected selves in rough shape


Jesus was raised with his scars

and the dirt of the garden (or tomb) under his fingernails


we are raised to newness

but the old clings to the fabric of our beings


this does not mean

that we are not new

it does not mean Love has not claimed us and transformed it


It means that the Sacred (God)

does not remove us from our messy lives

but joins us in those lives

and loves us through them


even as we stumble forward

carrying, sometimes, ugly pasts

carrying our wounds


even as we put one foot in front of another


still making mistakes

sometimes tripping

sometimes falling flat on our faces


sometimes doubting

sometimes wondering

sometimes being stunned into the silence

by the wonder of it all

Thursday, September 22, 2022

pass it on

People will do almost anything to not feel pain, including causing pain and abusing power;

          Brene Brown



pain is part of life

we all hurt in one way or another


in this age of my decrepitude

everything hurts

and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work


shoulders, back, knees

and yes, even toes

twinge and throb as I wander through the mundane motions of life


my mind hurts

struggling to remember appointments and names

fumbling facts and concepts



my heart and soul hurt too

those deep places that have become

a dump in which all kinds of garbage junk and debris have been tossed

by a negligent and uncaring world


hate and greed

lies, repeated and repeated again


abuse of power



we run from pain

running we get lost

and wander through the days

as disembodied souls

unable to connect with our own self

and with others


unable to find our way back

to original blessing

to Sacred childhood

unable to find out way back to community


this is a place we cannot abide

the very fabric of our being cries out in protest

helpless we rage


sometimes we strike out

futilely grasping for power in a vain attempt to stop the pain

creating pain to avoid pain


sometimes we seek only to numb

wandering into the coldness of detachment


we become destructive or hopeless


this is no way to live

this is not living

this is not reflecting the imago Dei

our Sacred nature


There is more to us than our pain

Woven into the fabric of our being are love, hope, joy, and peace


how then do we live?

we live aware, noticing and accepting the pain

(and all our other emotions)

we live expressing, naming and claiming the pain

(and the love)

we chose rather than react

overtly creating meaning, and sculpting our responses

choosing what we live out, what we pass on


Jesus faced pain

The pain of rejection

The pain of watching those he had taught forget everything

The pain of physical torture and torturous death


He chose his response

Abba, forgive them


He chose to pass on his love, not his pain


This is how we find our way back

This is how we rise

This is how the kingdom comes

This is how we live as carriers of the image

Wednesday, September 21, 2022



I heard somewhere that there are three types of forgiveness


forbearance and release


when we exonerate another we wipe the slate clean

and start over

perhaps we see the person truly just made a mistake,

or perhaps was too young to understand

or, perhaps, we sense true repentance


and so we wipe the slate clean and start over


with forbearance, there is still caution

we “forgive” but don’t “forget”

we don’t quite trust?


Perhaps the other hasn’t really acknowledged the pain they have created

or excuses it

we stay in the relationship, and we function “normally” with this person



and then there is release

Release does not exonerate the offender.

Nor does it require forbearance.

It doesn’t even

demand that we continue the relationship.

But it does ask that we stop defining our life in terms of the hurt done

We let go of our preoccupation with the hurt, with the event, the person


Release does something is that is critically important:

it allows us to let go of a painful, heavy burden

that keeps us from joy, hope, that keeps us from moving forward


It is a refusal to let those who have hurt us live rent-free in our minds


I struggle with forgiveness

I struggle to forgive those I think are truly (for lack of a better word) evil

To forgive those who abuse, and harm others

To forgive those who are predators, and abusers


What do I do with those people who beat up their children?

Or pack a gun into a school and kill innocent people, including little ones?

Or fly a plane into a building?

Or lie about elections and destroy our democracy?             

(I struggle to forgive myself too, but that is another story for another day)


It doesn’t matter if the harm is to one or many

I struggle to forgive such people

In part because forgiveness of such people feels like enabling

Like I am simply say, treat us like $hit and we’ll totally forgive you…


So keep doing it!

I don’t really want to be a holy doormat


and yet there it is

in this faith system I embrace


forgive 70 X 7

turn the other cheek

love your enemy pray for those who persecute you


and then there are those haunting words from the cross

Father forgive them


the problem is that retaliation doesn’t work

not really 

you attack me, I attack you

you hurt me, I hurt you


there might be a certain satisfaction in retaliation and retribution

but the sad reality is there

hate leads to hate, violence to violence

and in the end, if we can’t really harm those who harmed us

we harm ourselves, and those we love


in the end, without forgiveness

we become what we hate, we become like the one who harmed us


Jesus went around cutting people loose from their pasts

Their sins

In doing so he offered them the freedom to step away from whatever it was

That was hurting them and others

He was giving them a chance to live life a new way.


We can’t bind people to their pasts with unforgiveness

We can’t bind ourselves to evil with unforgiveness

Or hate and bitterness will metastasize in our souls


we have to let go

how we do that without enabling?


that is when it gets complicated

Jesus did it by putting himself, his body, his life on the line

he stood between us and evil

between us and hell

and he stands between us and the hells of our own making


what does it mean to offer forgiveness

and yet stand in the gap between evil and those evil would harm?


it means, I suspect to protect

perhaps to help the abused spouse to leave and find safety

and to face the abuser with firmness (you will not do this again)

but also with love (I believe you can be better than this)


I have no complete answer

Some will think these words mere drivel

Some will see them as foolish accommodation

Some will be affronted and will quickly point out that one has “do something”


Ah, the foolishness of the cross


Jesus has given us a model of how to combat evil

It is a rough road, asking us to stand up against evil

While at the same time not giving evil power within ourselves

Asking us to reject harm, without rejecting the “other”


I can’t do it (at least not well)

Perhaps I can only echo the words of Jesus

“God, Sacred One, you forgive them”

(and I’ll do my best to follow along)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

named and claimed

I have always found the beginning of Jesus’s ministry



I love, love, love how he is affirmed by Sacred

how the heavens part

and a voice proclaims

‘This is my child’


how the Sacred external

and the Sacred internal dance and Jesus understands


that he is loved

and that he is enough


but then he gets led into temptation

he is tempted not to trust the voice of love

tempted not to trust himself

tempted to grab power and misuse it


named and claimed by Love

he is tempted to depart from love and move to

something not loving


to move from sacrifice and service

to self-promotion and domination


I sometimes wonder how many times that story played out

in his lifetime

how many times this beloved child

was tempted to distrust his identity

his relationship to Love

and seek to affirm himself through the use of power

on others, rather than for others?


no wonder he often wandered off

needing to remember

needing to hear that inner voice

“This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased”


is not Jesus’s story our story?

are we too not named and claimed?

“This is my child

my child

and I am pleased”


in us too does the Sacred not dance?

are we too not sent out

to love the world?


and do other voices not whisper in our ears

seeking to pull us away from the path of love?


the ability of things dark and malignant

to worm their way into our lives

and make us doubt our identity as Sacred children

is profound


but so too is the power of love

that Love which comes down and


rooted in our hearts



over and over and over again

“child of God

child of God


with you, I am well pleased!


and do the work of Love”

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

downright apocalyptic

I miss the old days

Those days, 45 years ago when I left

the moldy halls of Princeton Theological Seminary

and inflicted myself on an unsuspecting congregation


Perhaps my memory is clouded

And I am glorifying the past

But it seemed as if things were different then.


People saw “the ministry” differently then

The church had a different place in the life of the community

The pews were fuller

The faces were younger


Christmas Eve was a “big deal”

And Easter too

People were, perhaps more confident, and perhaps more unified

in terms of what they believed


it was the best of times

it was the worst of times


for underneath the surface

there was pain

a lot of pain

women were minimized

LGBTQI+ people were defined as outcasts and sinners

(unless they denied who they were, or denied themselves a love relationship)

racism was ignored

and our way of thinking about God?


God was for most people

A rather cranky, older, white, man

Who was, truth be told, pretty retributive

And had to be placated as best as possible


So we went to church

Put together our Sunday school programs

And had our crazed and hyperactive youth programs


And tried not to think too seriously about the looming, niggling problems

Lurking under the surface of it all!


As long as “it worked”

And people showed up


Now here we are

The pews are relatively empty (no problem with social distancing)

The young families are staying away in droves

Young people look at the church and wonder WTH?

As they watch those who claim to follow Jesus embrace values and priorities Jesus would hate


Now people ask questions

Like “How can you say God is love and say God will torment most of humanity for all eternity?”

Or “If we know people are born LGBTQI+, how can you claim that makes them a sinner?”

Or “If God loves all and welcomes all, why don’t you?”


Now we struggle to define, and redefine what we believe

We struggle with racism, and restitution

We struggle with gender issues

And we struggle with social issues

And we find ourselves caught up in the middle of radically radical political divisions

And we find ourselves watching as the darkness of authoritarianism grows

And truth is abandoned for lies


It is downright apocalyptic!


And it is great!


Because we are always called by this God we Love

And who is love

Into newness

And newness means letting go of what is old (yes, I know, blasphemous)

And moving on!


We have let go of a lot over the last 45 years

We have more to let go of

We need to let go of some of what we believe about God

And a lot of what we believe about each other


We have to let go of our old ideas about what success looks like

And what ministry looks like

And what the church looks like


But this I believe

God is always doing a new thing

And God is always asking us to go with them into a new,

scary, unknown place


this is the story of God and God’s people

Abraham was called to leave and go

Moses, and the people

The disciples





Let go and follow

People have not always let go easily, or well

Oh no!

Abram/Abraham doubted and took things into his own hands

The people of Israel wanted to go back to Egypt

The disciples ended up where they started, fishing

Paul created a lot of chaos before he finally got it


And we?

We too struggle to let go and move on


But if we can

If we can let go of what is old and grab hold of what is new

Even if it is scary

Even if it is difficult

Perhaps painful


Even if it feels as if we are failing

And are lost

Wandering in the desert


If we let go

And follow?

There is something new

Something powerful

Something lifechanging

And perhaps world-changing out there


Which is why we pray

Thy kingdom come

Thy will be done

On earth

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

a case ffor humility

Sometimes I say to myself

Quite smugly I’m afraid

That I am inclusive


That I am a welcoming person who

Includes all in the circle of grace


Yay for me!


And then I think about it!

And humility sets in


Problem one is the very idea that

“I” and including “them” in “my” community of faith



Since when did the church belong to me?

Since when is it the Body of Stephen?

Is it not the Body of Christ?


How can I be so arrogant as to congratulate myself

for “allowing” people like “them” (whomever my “them” might be)

into my fellowship.


And who are these mythical people I am welcoming?


The poor?

The addicted?


Perhaps the question should not be “who am I welcoming”

It should be “who am I NOT welcoming”

For while I might welcome some others would not welcome

There are still (sadly) those I probably

Would gladly kick out of the tent of grace


Those who have bought into right-wing authoritarianism (for example)

People who lie for power

Or pollute for profit


Out! Out with thee

Those who follow the cultish Trump

Out, out, those who believe the “big lie”


I would most certainly exclude those who exclude

Just as I hate people who hate


We can be such silly creatures


I think of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch

(who was clearly “out” of the circle, the tent)

Who learned the most for their encounter


The Eunuch or Philip?

Sure, God through Philip in the Eunuch’s (non-binary that he was) path

But the Eunuch asked the questions and brought forth the answer

That no person can stand between another and God

There are no gatekeepers

No watchers at the flap of the tent


It is not our tent

It is God’s


I fear the reality is I cannot be inclusive

I can only be included

Along with all other saints and sinners


Thanks be to God


(And thanks to Nadia Bolz-Weber for her insight on Philip and the Eunuch in Cranky Beautiful Faith)

Monday, September 5, 2022

Contemporary Italian philosopher and psychologist (and ex-priest) Vito Mancuso, wrote a very rich Introduction to [Matthew Fox’s] book Original Blessing when it was translated into Italian.  In Italian the title was changed to, In principio era la gioia, “In the Beginning there was Joy” because, as the translator explained to, the word “blessing” in Italian has come to mean something very ecclesiastical, a priest’s blessing or a pope’s blessing, so the word has lost its primary meaning.


Mancuso talks about the journey from fall redemption religion to creation spirituality that includes a Via Positiva this way:


In putting the good and not the bad at the center, the bene-diction and not the male-diction (or the sin), the joy and not the sorrow, almost automatically brings forth a new pedagogy for which our society, so closed and depressed, has an indescribable need.

          Adapted (slightly) from Matthew Fox, Daily Meditations 9/5/22



In the beginning there was joy

God spoke a bene-diction

Over the chaos

A creative word of blessing and the world came to be


And it was good


God spoke a benediction

Over we human creatures

And it was very good


What do we lose when we lose the joy

When we make faith

A painful response to malediction

To self-imposed curse


What do we lose when instead of seeing ourselves

As blessed, as those who are good to the core,

we see ourselves as rotten to the core?


If one lingers around

The fringes of our steepled citadels

And listens, carefully

We can hear the sounds of lament and fear


We can see that lament and fear

Transformed into a need to dominate and control

Translated into a lust for political power

And we see the ekklesia align itself

With the malevolent


With anger, and hate

Even with cruelty and lies


When Jesus was born

The angels did not sing

“you’d better watch out!”


The angels sang “glory to God in the highest

And on earth peace to human creatures,

Whom God favors”


Original blessing frees us

Frees us, through love (and grace) to offer love

To “be not afraid”


I believe that God “rejoices over us with singing” (Zephaniah 3)

I believe that Jesus came so “our joy might be complete) John 15


In the beginning, was joy

In Jesus came joy

In the Spirit is joy


And I believe that when we live out of blessing

Rather than curse

We can be people who let go of all our old fears

and out subsequent securities

and freely move with God

away from the old

and into the new


into Kingdom living

and the way of common good


when we live from blessing not curse

we “shall go out in joy and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before us shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”  (Isaiah 55)