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  



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




Don’t question!

Don’t struggle!


Just believe what you are taught

Do what you are told



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?



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)



I think I will always wrestle

And limp all the way to the promised land.



Wednesday, September 13, 2023


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



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


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 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


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




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



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



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!




What is this?


WHO is this?




And so I stay

Encountering this Jesus

Whom I meet over and over again

And who is always new


And so I stay


That Jesus can remain real




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