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, September 22, 2023

God's Question

Religion consists of God’s question and [our] answer

          Abraham Joshua Heschel

_____________________________

 

God asks

“do you love me?”

 

As on the seashore long ago

With waves crashing

And boats rocking

And smoke rising

 

The question came

“Do you love me, Do you love me, Do you love me?”

 

“Do you love me more than these?”

 

More than what?

Than his fellow disciples?

Than the wind and the waves and the sell of the lake

On a crisp early morning?

Than his old way of life? 

 

Agapas me?

Came the question

Philo se?

Came the answer

Agapas me? Philo se

Phileis me?  Philo se?

 

Do you love me unreservedly, unconditionally, passionately!?

(the way I love you)

 

Yes, Lord, I friend you!

 

It wasn’t everything, perhaps

But it was enough

“I have called you friends,” said Jesus

 

Jesus calls us friends

 

Oh there are other words used

In all those parables

 

Laborers, servants, farmers, travelers

People who toil

 

But most of all we are friends!

“Friendship is mutual,

a hand extended, a hand reaching back”1  

 

Astonishing

We who fumble and bumble through life

We who lust after wealth and power

We who pillage the earth

We who wounded each other so grievously

 

Friends of God

 

God has made us God’s friends

And asks one primary thing

 

That we befriend one another, take care of one another

“Feed my sheep, tend my sheep, feed my sheep”

A trinity of compassion

 

The question comes

Won’t you be my friend?

The question comes

Won’t you tend one another?

 

Our answer should be

Yes! Yes! Yes!

 

Yes, we have our limits

Even Jesus ultimately accepted Phileo love from Peter

 

But when God befriends us!

In the grace space that offers

We find it within us

To be not merely befriended

But to be friends

 

People need friends

They need

“Somone to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy”2

 

I know God loves me

I know God friends me

I look out at the beauty around me and know

God wants to walk through this beautiful world with me

In mutual delight

 

I also know God asks me to “friend” those around me

To tend those around me

 

The question comes

Won’t you be my friend?

The question comes

Won’t you tend one another?

 

Our answer should be

Yes! Yes! Yes!

 

___________________________________

 

1.      Diana Butler Bass, Freeing Jesus Harper One, 2021, p. 14

2.      Quote by William Rawlins, p. 16 in Freeing Jesus.


Thursday, September 21, 2023

God Wrestlers

A friend of mine is taking an online course in Judaism

This person is struggling with faith

In a period of deconstruction, perhaps

Or may reconstruction

Who knows

 

In the middle of the class, Rabbi Terlinchamp was teaching what Yisrael really means. 

She explained that the Biblical name of the Jewish people

literally means "God wrestlers." 

 

And then she said, "If you aren't wrestling with God and your beliefs, then you aren't being true to the biblical texts." 

 

It is kind of a thing in the Bible

This idea of wrestling with God

It seems like everyone struggles

Adam and Eve, who chose poorly

Abraham, who didn’t quite trust

Moses, who ran away

Jacob, who literally wrestled

Job, who challenged

David, who messed up (time and time again)

Peter, who denied

James and John, who wanted special status

 

Paul, wretched man

 

Why is it that so often we are merely to

Accept

Comply

 

Don’t question!

Don’t struggle!

 

Just believe what you are taught

Do what you are told

Submit

 

I am sorry

I have questions

I struggle with a lot of what I have been taught

From childhood on

 

It may just be me!

Maybe I am the master of complication

And overthink everything

 

But still

There are those strugglers

 

And I think the Sacred is just too complex

Too big

Too mysterious

To be boiled down into 10 commandments

And a few formulaic confession

 

I think what I can affirm is simple

Maybe a little vague

God is

God is love

Jesus is Lord (whatever that means)

I am to love God, love myself, and love those around me

 

Outside of that?

I struggle with the meaning of the cross

Struggle with the things in the Bible that don’t fit with other things

How does hell fit in with a God of Love?

How does slaughtering your enemies (there is genocide in the Bible)

Fit is with love your neighbor

How does a wrathful, retributive God work if we are called to forgive

70 X 7

 

Love my enemies?

Bless them?

That works fine until I start thinking about those I don’t like

Who I think are awful human creatures?

Bless Donald? Lauren? Marjory?

Really?

 

Bless and do not curse?

God has me in a headlock

 

I think that I will never be one of those people

Who simply “rests” in God

(although at times that is nice)

 

Nope!

I think I will always wrestle

And limp all the way to the promised land.

 

 


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

forgiveness

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble and through it many become defiled.

          Hebrews 12:15

 

Refrain from anger and forsake wrath.     Do not fret—it leads only to evil.

          Psalm 7.8

 

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.

          Ephesians 5:31

 

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ”

          Carrie Fisher, Malachy McCourt and others have used this.  It evolved.

__________________________

 

I have often noticed

Just how we human creatures love to hold on to hate

And blame

And resentment

 

It is a sadly human trait

That shows up in the cautionary tale of Cain and Able

 

One of those early stories

That reveals, starkly who we are as human beings

Blessed children of God (Adam and Eve)

Power hungry and foolish (Also Adam and Eve)

Resentful, jealous, and violent (Cain and Able)

Ambitious and arrogant (Tower of Babel)

 

The problem with hate, and resentment

Those feelings that focus our enmity on others

Is that they rob us of ourselves

 

They consume us and blind us

And make us less

 

The wise (and not-so-wise) writers of the Bible

Make it pretty clear

Resentment and hate pave the path to evil

 

Do we dare doubt it?

 

This past week we “remembered” 9/11

This was indeed a horrible event

 

I do remember it.

I was preparing for a trip to Azerbaijan when the planes hit the towers

And it was a long while before we were allowed to make that trip

to work with Azeri doctors on delivering better medical care

 

It hit close to home

As I was only days from boarding a plane to Washington DC

 

I too was angry, appalled

 

But over the years I have come to understand some things

How our behavior, a nation, planted the seeds of 9/11

How our arrogance and heavy-handed interference

And exploitation of that region created

 

Yes

Resentment and hate

 

This event came out of resentment and hate

And we responded in kind

And our response tore the world apart.

 

We responded poorly

We responded violently

We responded by believing, by embracing, lies to justify our action

We wanted to “get even”

And so millions died.

Millions more were made homeless

We even hurt ourselves (how many Americans were killed or damaged, permanently)

 

And now we still

Remember

But do we remember the right way?

 

Are we taking care so that no root of bitterness springs up?

Are we refraining from anger and forsaking wrath?

Have we put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice?

 

Or are we still drinking the poison and waiting for the other person to die?

 

We need to remember!

We need to remember the pain of that day

The buildings crashing,

The people dying

Those heroes making the ultimate sacrifice

Those whose lives would never be the same

 

But as we vilify the perpetrators

We also need to see how we as a nation planted the seeds of hate

By our behavior

We need to remember that our leaders lied (and were willfully misled)

We have to remember that our response was violent and excessive

We have to remember how many innocents were killed

Because of us

 

We have to remember the destruction we unleashed

 

When we carry resentment and hate in our hearts

WE DO NOT SEE THE OTHER CLEARLY

AND WE DO NOT SEE OURSELVES

 

We do not see their humanity, their pain

We do not see our culpability

 

Our world is being torn apart by hate and resentment

Our nation is being torn apart by hate and resentment

 

And into the winds of hate

Jesus comes singing love

Living Love

 

Jesus comes preaching forgiveness

And entrusting us with the ministry

Not of vengeance

But of reconciliation

 

Always, reconciliation

 

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us (2 Corinthians 5)

 

Every day I see the power of resentment and hate

Every single day

 

It leads only to evil

To abusive politics

To guns

To lies and graft

To oppression and death

To vengeance

 

Every day I see the power of resentment and hate

Today

I would like to see the power of love

Today I would like to practice forgiveness


Sunday, September 10, 2023

following Jesus

Following Jesus is weird

Complex

Confusing

 

It has been that way from the beginning

From those first squalling moments in a trough

From that frantic moment when his family fled, political refugees,

To a far country

 

To that strange moment in the Jordan

When he was dunked in dirty water with a bunch of sinners

To those moments of thirst and hunger in the wilderness

Tempted

 

Jesus was not the Messiah people expected

If God were going to come and save

If God were going to come and rule

 

This certainly is NOT how God would do it

A wrinkled baby, born to a common family

In a rural community

A young man, wandering the countryside

Surrounded by poor people

Powerless people

Hungry people

Sick people

Lost people

 

We would expect the Messiah to look

Messianic

 

We would expect a person born into wealth

A person with status and connections

A person who would come in and grab power

 

If we had been running the show

Jesus would have been born in Jerusalem, a prince perhaps

At least a Sadducee

He would have been raised with privilege

Educated well (not that he needed it)

 

He would have taken over the Sanheidren

Made the Pharisees his allies

Aligned with the Priests

 

He would have taken over the power structures of his day

He would have kicked out the Romans

And established the Kingdom

 

It must have been confusing for his disciples

To watch this one with so much power

The power to turn water into wine

The power to heal

The power to walk on water (how cool is that)

 

Simply wander along dusty roads

And hang out with the poor

And eat with tax collectors

 

There was that moment of hope

When he entered Jerusalem

And for a moment it seemed as if

It was really going to happen

He was going to exert his power

 

But then the meal

Then Jesus, in the dust, washing feet

Then Gethsemane

The arrest

The trial

The beatings

 The cross

The death

Of everything

 

Following Jesus is weird

This one who will not align with Empire

Who will not create a kingdom, but instead establishes a Kin-dom

A community of love

 

Here we are with our affluence and privilege

Here we are

Wanting to leverage Jesus so we have more affluence and privilege

 

No wonder we functionally ignore so much of what Jesus taught

No wonder it is so hard for us to “get” what Jesus was all about

 

It doesn’t make sense

We don’t believe it

That if we give it all up, we get everything

That if we are last, we will become first

That if we die to the self we will find ourselves

 

So we try to remake Jesus in our image

We try to make him one who makes people rich

And we try to use him in order to gain power

 

And we wallow in our affluence

And neglect the poor

We abuse power and forget to love

We exclude and forget to welcome

 

And it doesn’t work

 

Following Jesus is weird

And as I sit, on this early fall mourning

In my nice house

Looking out at my nice car

As I sit here with my affluence and yes, my privilege

 

I wonder

What would it mean to follow him?


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

So I stay

When it comes to being a Christian.  I am out.  I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity

          Ann Rice (2010)

_______________________________

 

Sometimes I wonder why I stay

Here I am!

With my theological degrees.

My ordination vows

My “call”

 

And sometimes I wonder why I stay

So many are leaving

We hear all about the great resignation

Of pastors leaving for a myriad of reasons

He is tired

She is minimized

They are judged

 

There is too much secondary trauma

There are too many demands

There is too little support

 

Sometimes I wonder why I stay

When people I consider friends leave and wander off to another church

When the pews are no longer full

When I wonder if I still have anything to say

When Christianity as a faith system can be so screwed up

And full of hate and exclusion

Rather than love and inclusion

 

I guess I stay because I believe

In what?

In Jesus.

In his teachings

In his priorities

In his presence

 

That after all, is what Christianity should be all about

Believing in Jesus

Believing Jesus

 

I can’t prove God

I can’t prove that Jesus was the incarnation of God

 

But I can experience God

I can encounter Jesus

 

Like Paul on the road to Damascus

Blinding light!

Stunning

Transforming

Filling

What is this?

NO!

WHO is this?

 

Ah!

 

And so I stay

Encountering this Jesus

Whom I meet over and over again

And who is always new

 

And so I stay

Hoping

That Jesus can remain real

Alive

Free

 

Even within the confines of a church

That acts less like the living body of Christ

Making Love real in this world

 

And more like a prison

From which Christ must be set free

 

And so I stay, hoping to join with others

Who move past ritual and creed

To encounter

To communion

To transformation

To service

 

So I stay


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Alone

The desire to be noticed has always been an essential part of the human condition.

          Charlotte Fox Weber

 

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.  Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. 

          Bren√© Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

 

And a second is like it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself

          Jesus

__________________________________

 

I grew up a loner

 

Oh I had a good family, maybe even a great one

Parents who loved me in their own unique ways

Sisters who protected and tolerated

A wonderful small neighborhood nestled in the country

Casual friends at school

 

But I was fundamentally a loner

A loner who loved being alone

Who hated being alone

 

I spent most of my time alone

Reading

Dreaming

Playing games of the imagination

 

Because when I was with people

I struggled

I wanted to be known

I feared being known

 

I wanted to be liked

Included

Valued

Respected

Loved even

 

But being a late bloomer

Skinny little geek

I wasn’t sure that the truly me

Would ever be included, valued

Respected

Love

 

So I tried too hard

And then ran

Because it all felt so clumsy and awkward

I was truly an artificial self

 

The problem was that I had so little self-love

I looked like I had too much self-love

As I promoted myself

Seeking to be found

 

But in truth, I was a cipher

I had “skills”

I was musical, bright, witty

I could draw

And (although I was a good 2 years behind physically) mostly hold my own in sports

 

The problem is, as Jesus and others have pointed out

“Love is not something we give or get;

it is something that we nurture and grow,

a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”  (Bren√© Brown),

 

And so I was alone

A highly functional dysfunctional

Stumbling through high school, college, and seminary

And a myriad of careers

 

And so I am alone still

Not truly alone

I have people who care about me

People who want to love me

People I want to love

 

But still, a distance remains

Between myself and those who are part of my life

 

My lack of self-love

Has caused no end of grief

It has caused me to seek connection in unhealthy ways

It has caused me to hide my true self

 

Because of my fundamental struggle to be noticed and valued

I have alienated people

I have been rightly and wrongly vilified

I have people who love me, I suspect

People who value me

And people who despise me

 

But it all comes down to not letting love in.

Not trusting enough in God’s love

And my own self-worth

To just “be”

 

I believe that God is love

And I believe that God loves me

I know that if I let that love fill me

I will leak love, and the world will be a better place

And I will not be alone

Never alone

 

I believe

Lord, help my unbelief


Monday, August 21, 2023

Keep it simple

Today I sit and stare

At nothing

 

On the screen in front of me is a

New document

 

The empty whiteness screaming at me

Brash and demanding!

 

Write something, anything

 

Outside my window, all is empty blackness

The dark of stormy mornings

Where darkness rules

 

I have nothing profound to say

No thoughts that are new

 

I have been on this journey will call life for a long time

It has been a journey populated by people

Good and bad

 

It has been a journey of twists and turns

Successes and failures

I have been praised and vilified

I have been lost and found

Or rather I have lost and found myself

 

I have sought to understand the really real

What some call God

Or El

Or Sacred

 

I have read, studied, and reflected

I have earned two Master's degrees and a Doctorate

 

I have immersed myself in philosophy, theology, and psychology

 

And yet as I sit here this morning

Staring at nothing

This truth emerges

 

That whatever else the really real is

It is a mystery

 

I cannot claim to be a good mystic

I love certitude far too much for that.

 

But I have come to understand that what is real

What is love

What is life

What is all

 

Cannot be contained in books

Especially not one book

 

There are no hard edges

The really real is beyond us

It is that which cannot be defined

 

And yet

What is really real can be encountered

Experienced

Even to some degree lived

 

It is best found not in creeds

Or systematic theologies

Our attempts to capture the wind

 

It is best found in the simple things

In the wind in the trees

In the smile of a child

In the beauty of a doe with her fawns

In the freshness of the rain

 

And it is best explained

Simply

 

Love is

We are loved by Love

We carry Love in us

The more room we give for Love within us

The more Love fills us

The more we are filled with Love, the more we can love ourselves in a healthy way

And the more love fills us the less room there is for that which is not love

The more we are filled with Love, the more we can love those around us

 

And the more the world is filled with Love, the more it is how it was meant to be.

 

(replace the word Love with God, it still works!  We can “God” each other.  Sadly we can replace the word Love with Hate as well, and it still works -  try it)

 

Simple

Mysterious

Mystical                       

 

Something we can understand

And yet never fully understand

 

There are no new truths

Only simple truths that make us new


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

radical generosity

Redistribution is a description of what happens when people fall in love with each other across class lines… [it] flows naturally out of a love for God and neighbor.

 

The way we give money and possession power is by holding them with clenched fists.  On the flip side, the way we take away their power is by holding them with open hands and giving them away winsomely

          Shane Claiborne

_____________________________________________

 

We are controlled by what we have

And the more we have

It seems

The more we are controlled

 

I have always wondered why the really rich

Never seem to have enough

I have always wondered why those people with power

Always want more

And more

And more

And more

 

Jesus hints that it doesn’t have to be this way

Indeed we are invited to give it all away

 

I don’t think Jesus gave that challenge to the rich young man

Just to shame him

 

He knew it could be done

He knew it needed to be done

 

Jesus would also say

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”

 

No kidding!

 

It is not where our heart is, our treasure will be

It is that our hearts follow the money,

And the power

 

But if our hearts follow the money and the power

Then they aren’t being given to God and our neighbor

 

If our hearts follow the money and the power

Then most of what we do will be about money and power

How we spend our time

The kind of jobs we take

 

It is all determined

We are determined and defined

By power and money

 

And then our house, our boat, our car

Our clothes, our bank balance

Become our identify

Our comfort

Our all

 

Not God

Not love

 

There are people who have done this well

Or so we are told

At times radical generosity blossomed in the early church (Acts 4)

Francis of Assisi perhaps

 

Mother Theresa had deformed feet because she

Would always take the worst shoes out of the donation piles for herself

Leaving the better shoes for the poor

 

I suspect radical generosity is often more frequently

Among the poor

 

A friend tells of a time he gave a child

Begging on the streets, a piece of gum (all he had on him at the time)

That child broke the piece into three pieces and share it with friends

 

The more we have, the harder it is to give

Proportionally the poor are more generous than the rich

 

I truly believe that radical generosity

And perhaps the eradication of extreme wealth

Are the most powerful antidote we have to hate

And to such movements as fascism and MAGA

 

God did not mess up and make too many people

And not enough stuff

Poverty was created because too many people have too much stuff

 

As Gandhi suggests

“There is enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed”

 

We cannot afford to cling to wealth and power

We think we cannot afford not to

But we are wrong

 

It is when we cling to such things

that we are in peril

of gaining the world

but losing our souls


Monday, August 14, 2023

Listen

Listen

Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space

around you.

Let this darkness be a bell tower

and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.

Move back and forth into the change.

What is it like, such intensity of pain?

If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,

be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,

the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,

Say to the silent earth: I flow.

to the rushing water, speak: I am.

          Rainer Marie Rilke (quoted by DBB in Sunday Musings, 8/13/23)

 

The voices that are easiest to hear are often those voices to whom I should listen least. And the listening I need to hear most is often the hardest to hear, because it is quiet, and like God to the Prophet Elijah, it speaks only in the stillness after the whirlwind has passed.

          Diana Butler Bass

______________________________________________

 

God says

God told me

The Bible says

Our church says

 

FOX says

MSNBC says

There are loud gongs and clashing cymbals everywhere

 

There are angry souls,

Demanding to be heard

Yelling and screaming

Telling us what is wrong, what is right

 

Demanding that we hate and fear

 

Telling us to be afraid

To pick up the sword, or rather the AR-15

And kill

Eradicate

 

Telling us that the chief end of humankind

is to rule, to dominate

and perchance

destroy

 

We live in the whirlwind

in a searing time

where like a wildfire driven by the wind

foul forces

urge us to embrace our darker angels

 

We seek Sacred in the noise

in the loud demanding noises

in the huge auditorium, filled with smoke and mirrors

in the mass gatherings where people

whose egos ooze and poison

tell us to follow them

to the promised land

(where White American Christianity once again rules)

 

It is hard to miss the voices of hate and fear

Of dominance and greed

Loud and harsh, intrusive and constant

 

It is hard not to listen

To those voices that tell us what we want to hear

That tell us we are better, smarter, more righteous

That tell us we are right, and they are wrong

We are blessed, they are cursed

 

It is hard not to listen to those voices

That excuse our behaviors

That insist we can ignore climate change

The poor

The homeless

 

But those voices are like the strong winds

That tear into the mountains and break the rocks into pieces

Like the earthquakes that shake

And the fire that burns (I Kings 19)

 

All too often Sacred is not in them

And we are deceived

 

Where is the voice we need to hear

that almost silent whisper

that echoes gently in the stillness?

 

Where is the Truth that is often so hard to hear

Among the clamor

Hard to hear because it tells us what we do not want to hear.

 

Where is the One who whispers

Here I Am.

I Am

 

The voice of El

Comes to us in unexpected ways

Through unexpected people

 

It comes to us on foul city streets

On lonely rural roads

It echoes across the waters

It lingers in the trees

 

It comes from that person who has no place to live

From that one dying alone

From the person struggling with addiction

From that transgender person who has been denied the right to be

 

It whispers to us in the voices of the poor

It drifts like smoke from the devastation on Maui

It comes almost silent and small from those oppressed

Marginalized

And minimalized

By those who would dominate and control them

 

We live in the whirlwind

In a world of earthquake and fire

But still

If we listen

The Voice is there

 

I am

I am here

I am love

You are loved

Please love

 


Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Out of emptiness, dark things come

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Faith also means reaching deeply within, for the sense one was born with, the sense, for example, to go for a walk.”

          Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

_________________________________

 

Someone once asked me if I believed in demons

 

“Yes,” I answered

“I do.”

 

We all have our demons

Those hungry ghosts that lurk in our souls

Those voices telling us we are not enough

Those voices telling us that “they” are the enemy

 

Jesus understood that what is going on within

Profoundly impacts how we live

 

Out of the heart, he suggested

Comes evil

Comes lies, slander, hate, greed

Comes words that hurt

And actions that wound

 

It is not so much that we are filled with

Awful things (call them what you will)

But that we are NOT filled with love.

 

Looking back on my own life

My worst moments have come because

of a profound emptiness within

 

from a void at my core

that comes when, for whatever reason

I am not abiding

 

Am not connected to Love

Am not filled with that spring of living water

Welling up

 

When I am empty

Terrible things fill the void

Doubt and despair

Anger and resentment

 

When I am empty I am needy

And I reach out seeking to fill the void

 

I seek to accomplish

I try to build myself up

I reach out to others

But reaching out in need,

I am grasping

I am a taker

I use and manipulate

It gets ugly!  I have done ugly things.

 

Wretched man!

Who will rescue me?

 

I need that spring of living water

I need that holy presence

I need to be filled

 

I need to take the time to go down deep

Inside

To that place that defines me

To that place where Sacred dwells

 

And find Sacred

Find love

Find me

 

For only when I have become inwardly intimate

With God, and even with my true self

Can I be outwardly

A person who reflects in any way

the Image of God

 

If I have made that inner connect

Then when I move outward

It is out of fullness, and not need

And that makes all the difference!

 

Poor Donald

So needy

Poor Mitch, Marjorie, Mike, Joe, Nancy

Poor all of us

 

To whatever degree we are empty

We are destructive

 

Faith means reaching deeply within

For the truth

That we are loved

And we don’t need to dominate, control, use, take, consume

We are loved

 

So we can give, care, forgive, protect, include

 

We are loved

And that is the beginning and the end

Of our story

 

 


Wednesday, August 2, 2023

community

people don’t seem to leave the church because they no longer believe in the beauty of Jesus and his teachings. People leave the church because they believe in the beauty of Jesus and his teaching so much that they can no longer stomach being part of an institution that says it’s about that and so clearly is not.

          Nadia Bolz-Weber

 

When we talk about building a world where all people can achieve justice and fulfill our potential as human beings, we really mean all people. That is Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s vision of “Beloved Community,” where all people can live in peace. Beloved Community is an acknowledgment that the only way for a peace to ever be sustainable, the only way that our people can always be safe, is if all people are free.…

 

Building Beloved Community is not about loving the people who are easy to love. It is about cultivating love for those that are difficult to love

 

If you are not struggling to love people, if you are not trying to build understanding with those you disagree with, then you are not really doing the work of building Beloved Community. The work of building Beloved Community is understanding that we’re not trying to win over people, but to win people over. Historically, winning a war has meant defeating the opponent. There is a clear winner and a clear loser.... But in nonviolence, there is no real victory until everyone is on the same side. 

          Richard Rohr

____________________________________________

 

the church is dying

Long live the church!

 

I think a lot about the church

as an aged coot who inhabits a pulpit on Sunday morning

wondering if he has something to say

to the scattered souls scattered among the pews

 

and I think it is dying

the average congregation has 65 people

and only 16% of Americans say religion is the most important thing in their life

 

did I say congregation?

Ah!

a congregation is a group of people gathered for

that exercise in religiosity we call worship

 

most of the “congregations” that seem to be flourishing

(or so the statisticians tell us)

are those that are very large

 

where worship can be done with flair!

where the entertainment is excellent and

the energy of the gathered masses

takes on the quality of a Trump rally (or a rock concert)

 

(yeah, I know, there are exceptions)!

 

but it all has me wondering about the fate

of all those little congregations

which are dying

one by one

 

it strikes me that something needs to change

perhaps we need to start by changing one word

and stop talking about congregations

and start talking about communities

 

what does it mean to be a community

it doesn’t mean you come together once a week to perform a “task”

it means you live together

struggle together 

share together

eat together

 

community

communities of faith

 

what does that look like

it might mean meeting in a home, not a sanctuary

it might mean meeting to serve (together) at a food bank

or gathering to help an elderly person with their garden

 

a community looks like people rallying around that person

who, suffering from mental illness and trauma just got a DUII

and making sure they still know they are loved

and are a child of God

 

communities are neighbors loving neighbors

people taking care of one another

 

communities are about people listening

forgiving

and giving

 

communities are about working together

despite differences

until everyone wins

everyone gets to the goal, together

 

I don’t know, for sure

how to turn a congregation

scattered souls, scattered among the pews

into a community of faith

a community of love

 

I suspect that I will have little to do with that process

but I do know that in my little corner of the world

middle of nowhere

center of the universe (Wallowa County, Oregon)

my congregation will survive

if it can move beyond being a congregation

 

we live in a world full of lonely, anxious, and uncertain people

scared to death of the future

seeking answers in all the wrong places (in authoritarian leaders for example)

 

the church, if it is to be relevant

has to offer these suffering people that can’t be more easily found somewhere else

 

and it hasn’t

As Jake Meador of the Atlantic puts it

“American churches have too often been content to function as a kind of vaguely spiritual NGO, an organization of detached individuals who meet together for religious services that inspire them, provide practical life advice, or offer positive emotional experiences. Too often it has not been a community that through its preaching and living bears witness to another way to live”

 

The church is dying!

That is not all bad

Because you have to die to be resurrected

You have to die (both Jesus and Paul said this) to the old

to be raised to new life

 

Maybe it is time the church dies

so that it can become the church?

 

the resurrected body of Christ

in this world


Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Jesus

you may “get” us

but we don’t “get” you

 

we have built beautiful soaring buildings to hold your presence

we have built ugly auditoriums in which to shout your praise

we have written complex (and unsingable) hymns

and endless praise songs in your honor

 

we have put together a book

and have idolized it

 

we have fought over its meaning

and sought “right faith”

and fought over what that means

 

we have worshipped you

prayed to you

and talked about you

 

we have bedecked our bodies with crosses

and our cars with bumper stickers

touting our faith

 

and yet we have found ourselves far from you

and it shows

 

we talk about the poor

you lived among the poor

 

those of us who “have”

allow a little of what we have to trickle down to the poor

you called for radical redistribution!

 

we plot and plan and seek to infiltrate the halls of power

we work to codify righteousness

and impose it

 

we enter into the world of Empire and seek to use it

not knowing that Empire simply uses us!

You refused to align with Empire at all

Instead, you resisted Empire and all that it stands for

Wealth

Power

Control

Imposed righteousness

 

Knowing that none of those things is love

 

And Empire killed you

And Empire kills you still!

 

You were about one thing

Love

Love lived out

Love lived out radically and sacrificially

Love lived out among those most in need of love

(not those most easy to love)

 

You were permeated with Sacred

Filled with a Sacred love that spilled forth

Bubbling

Like a spring of living water

 

And you asked those who loved you

To love the way you loved

 

Yes, you asked people to give

To give all

You asked people to love

to love to the point of dying

 

But you knew

And you tried to teach us

That this kind of generosity and love

Comes not through guilt, shame, or fear

It is not implemented through rules

It is not imposed by foul and often cruel legislation

 

It comes from Sacred Presence

It comes out of a love of Love (God)

It comes when our hearts are filled to overflowing

It comes when people fall in love with each other

 

No, Jesus

We do not get you

 

But you get us

Which is why you told us the poor will be with us always

 

Dear God!

We are a mess!

Help!

 

Fill our hearts we pray

until they are full

until your love oozes from our souls

 

fill our hearts until capitalism is not possible

and forced re-distribution is not necessary

 

gather us together

around a table where all are equal

and all is shared

and all are protected

and all are loved

 

we do not get you, Lord,

but we want to


Wednesday, July 26, 2023

where does God dwell

The Bible is most extraordinary because it repeatedly and invariably legitimizes the people on the bottom, not the people on the top. Rejected sons, barren women, sinners, lepers, or outsiders are always the ones chosen by God. It’s rather obvious when pointed out to us. In every case, we are presented with some form of powerlessness—and from that situation God creates a new kind of power. This is the constant pattern found hidden in plain sight.

          Richard Rohr (Daily Meditations, July 17, 2023)

 

Where does God dwell in America today? Is he at home with those who are complacent – indifferent to other people’s agony, devoid of mercy?  Is he not rather with the poor and the contrite in the slums

          Abraham Joshua Heschel  (Essential Writings)

______________________________________________

 

where does God dwell?

where can we find the One who is love?

 

is Sacred hanging out in the halls of the private school

funded by vouchers, where the rich and privileged loiter

or is Sacred in the battered classroom of an inner-city public school?

 

is Love sitting on the banks of the Rio Grande, watching

or is Love struggling, in the muddy waters

pieced by razor wire?

 

is the Beloved one lingering, poolside

with the 1%, who, indifferent and complacent

hoard resources and wrap themselves in an impervious bubble of wealth

or with that person suffocated by poverty

living in their car while working two minimum-wage jobs?

 

is God with the “good ol' boys, raised up right”

the ones in body armor with the guns

the white vigilantes who seek to dominate and intimidate

or with those who must fear for their life

every time police lights flash in their rearview mirror?

 

does God dwell in the church which preaches domination

and promises wealth

with the church that excludes and coerces

and sits fortified in its sanctuaries both massive and small

 

or does God dwell with those who have stumbled from the pews

into the world to serve?

fighting for justice, feeding the hungry, housing those without homes

caring for those no one cares about?

 

is God in the picket line outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic,

or sitting in the waiting room

with the frightened young woman whose life is falling apart?

 

where is God in America today?

at a Trump rally?

in the boardroom of the oil company?

on Wall Street?

in the sanctuary of the mega-church?

skulking behind the scenes at the Family Research Council or The Heritage Foundation?

 

where is God in America today?

is God in America today?

 

if God is

God is on the street,

in the food line

at the homeless shelter

with those our systems neglect and oppress

 

if God is

God is with those the world deems the “least’

in the places that are the most horrific

 

and God’s presence is poured out

not on those who seek to rule

and enter into the pain of the world and serve

 

Even upon my slaves, both men and women,

    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, Acts 2:18