Message to a Beloved Community in this time of Chaos
Here is a LINK to my May 13th message on YouTube.
During this Time of Social Distancing See…
“WALK IN THE WOODS,” Daily reflections from me — on YOUTUBE!
WHAT TO DO DURING THE PANDEMIC!
I invite you to check in with me either on Facebook or YouTube for my almost daily “Walk in the Woods.” May God bless and protect us as we fight this enemy among us — Covid-19! Be smart. Wash hands. Do social distancing and keep your hands away from your face! We will beat this!
Week of March 15, 2020
HOLY WEEK AND EASTER
The CDC has just recommend for the next eight weeks that all assemblies of 50 or more be cancelled. You know what that means — HOLY WEEK and EASTER! A real hit. I hope many of you were able to join Sabine and I as we worshipped on-line at the National Cathedral yesterday. But now I am musing on Easter — the greatest of all our liturgies. Also remembering that we can commune together spiritually as we watch an on-line Eucharist:
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already
there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Week of March 8, 2020
Week of March 1, 2020
This week I am thinking about community and how an authentic community (hopefully us) cares for each other. Too often, folks tell me about a tragedy (usually death) of a close friend and how they didn’t know what to say so they stayed away. Did not visit. I tell them that it’s good that they don’t know what to say because what they may have said is of little importance. What counts is SHOWING UP! It’s being PRESENT to their grieving friend. Henri Nouwen reminds us of this: “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.” –Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude
Week of Feb 23, 2020
The words “transfiguration,” “transformation,” “metamorfoo” (in the Greek language of the New Testament) have all been on my mind this past week. Yesterday, the Last Sunday of Epiphany we heard Matthew’s story of Jesus’ “metamorfoo;” his changing into another form, transforming, to transfiguring. Jesus’ appearance to Peter, James and John was dramatically changed and they now saw him resplendent with divine brightness. What an experience that must have been! But has our lives been any different? I don’t know about you, but my vision, idea, and sense of Jesus has changed over the years. Think about it. Your thoughts about who Jesus was as a child, teenager, young adult, and today? Has there been a metamorphosis — a big change? It has for me. But what about loved ones in our lives? How have they changed? Become more radiant, loving — even glowing? Jesus calls us to a life of change, to press on, become the best we can be. And when we do, we shine!
Week of Feb 16, 2020
Beware of Fascism
As child during World War II, I remember what happened in Germany and Japan. As a Christian, I quickly learned that fascism was something to be resisted at all costs. Its antecedents are far-right, authoritarianism, ultranationalism, dictatorial power, regimentation of society, and the forcible suppression of opposition. We, who follow Jesus, must be able to recognize and resist these kinds of movements. Jason Stanley, in his 2018 book, “How Fascism Works” helps us with this task. It is a short, well-written and excellent description of this kind of political movement. I also strongly recommend you view the film “Triumph of the Will” (you can see the entire film on YouTube). It strikingly shows how it worked in Germany. It is probably the best propaganda film ever. The 1935 Nazi propaganda film was directed, produced, edited, and co-written by Leni Riefenstahl (she lived to be 104 and died in 2002). It chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg. It was attended by more than 700,000 Nazi supporters. Let us not find ourselves in the situation that Lutheran pastor Martin Neimoller found himself:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
We must speak out!
Week of Feb 9, 2020
Thinking about Stephan A. Schwartz’s 8 Laws of Change: How to Be an Agent of Personal and Social Transformation and the Quaker tradition: actions—grounded in contemplation which had a profound impact on helping to abolish slavery, promote gender equity, and prison reform. How might these “8 Laws” inform our Christian practice? How might they be a template for our Christian behavior today?
First Law. The individuals, individually, and the group, collectively, must share a common intention. Second Law. The individuals and the group may have goals, but they may not have cherished outcomes. Third Law. The individuals in the group must accept that their goals may not be reached in their lifetimes and be okay with this. Fourth Law. The individuals in the group must accept that they may not get either credit or acknowledgment for what they have done and be authentically okay with this. Fifth Law. Each person in the group, regardless of gender, religion, race, or culture, must enjoy fundamental equality, even as the various roles in the hierarchy of the effort are respected. Sixth Law. The individuals in the group must foreswear violence in word, act, or thought. Seventh Law. The individuals in the group and the group itself must make their private selves consistent with their public postures. Eighth Law. The individuals in the group and the group collectively must always act from the beingness of life-affirming integrity. For more see this.
Week of Feb 2, 2020
First Nation’s Beatitudes
I am always interested in how the Jesus-message can be incorporated into modern peoples and cultures. Also, how Jesus might be seen by those who occupied our land before we started showing up in great numbers. The following is from a new edition of First Nations Version of the Bible. How native peoples understand Jesus’ beatitudes as understood in Matthew 5:1-12
“When Creator Sets Free (Jesus) saw this great crowd, he went back up into the mountainside and sat down to teach the people. His followers came to him there, so he took a deep breath, opened him mouth and began to share his wisdom with them and teach them how to see Creator’s Good Road.
Creator’s blessing rests on the poor, the ones with broken spirits,
the good road from above is theirs to walk.
Creator’s blessing rests on the ones who walk a trail of tears,
for he will wipe the tears from their eyes and comfort them.
Creator’s blessing rests on the ones who walk softly and in a humble manner;
the earth, land, and sky will welcome them and always be their home.
Creator’s blessing rests on the ones who hunger and thrist for wrongs to be made right again;
they will eat and drink until they are full.
Creator’s blessings rests on the ones who are merciful and kind to others;
their kindness will find its way back to them–full circle.
Creator’s blessing rests on the pure of heart,
for they are the ones who will see the Great Spirit.
Creator’s blessing rests on the ones who make peace;
it will be said of them, ‘They are the children of of the Great Spirit!’
Creator’s blessing rests on the ones who are hunted down and mistreated for doing what is right,
for they are walking the Good Road from above.
Others will lie about you, speak against you, and look down on you with scorn and contempt, all because you walk the road with me. This is a sign that Creator’s blessing is resting on you. So let your hearts be glad and jump for joy, for you will be honored in the world above. You are like the prophets of old, who were treated in the same way by your ancestors.”
Week of Jan 26, 2020
I preached yesterday about how a Christian needs to think about the death penalty. This is especially important for those of us who follow Jesus who, himself, was unjustly executed. We can support the death penalty by simply saying the Old Testament proclamation — “an eye for an eye.” But that’s too easy and it avoids the life of Jesus and how he raised people from the dead and healed others. It’s a bad argument to say that “We are killing you because we want others to know that killing is wrong!” I am against the death penalty on two levels. The first being Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels, the second being my experience as a police detective and knowing how easy it is to make errors. Bryan Stevenson’s defense work for thos on death row has already acquitted over 130 death-row prisoners who were wrongly convicted. I urge you to read his book, “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” or see the new film by the same name. It may open your eyes.
Week of Jan 12, 2020
“You Are My Beloved!”
Whenever I read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism I am struck by God’s words to him: “You are my beloved!” Is this not what we all want to hear from both God and our parents? These are the best words we can ever say to our children: “You are my beloved child!” The theologian Henry Nouwen writes: ““I hope that you can hear these words as spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold… Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert. Once you have touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper.” Yes, we are God’s beloved and we are to pass it on!
Week of Dec 29, 2019
Thinking about (basking in) our holy Christ-mass eve worship in which we had a record number of participants (80). About as good as it gets! Hallelujah!
Week of Dec 22, 2019 – The Nativity
Where Will Jesus Be Born?
It was Meister Eckhart, the 14th century German theologian and mystic, who taught that Christmas means nothing unless we birth Jesus in our heart. The Incarnation (God becomes one of us) is pregnant with new life, anticipation and hope. I am thinking as I approach this time of Christ-mass how am I going to birth Jesus? What ways do I avoid this pregnancy and birth? “O Come, O Come, Emanuel” and free me from my captivity. Amen.
Week of Dec 15, 2019 – 3rd Advent
Oh, my gosh, are you timing me?
Many surveys ask about a person’s religious affiliations, beliefs and practices, but far less is known about the content of the sermons heard and how long they are preached. No more. Now a new Pew Research Center analysis explores this question, It gets me thinking. How long do I preach? (I’d say 10-15 minutes, but…) And what about my content? (Hmmmm.) Check out the data HERE.
Week of Dec 8, 2019 – 2nd Advent
“Something New is Struggling to Be Born!”
This week I am wrestling with these thoughts from the first woman president of Union Theological Seminary (UTS) in New York City. Wow! We can be in the midst of another Christian reformation and not know it — just like those Christians in the 16th century!
“I often feel like we are in the middle of another reformation in a 500-year cycle. John Calvin and Martin Luther had no idea they were in the middle of a reformation, but they knew that church structures were breaking down, new forms of communication were emerging, new scientific discoveries were being made, new kinds of authorities and states and economic systems arising — all like this moment in time. This creates a spiritual crisis and a spiritual flexibility.
“Christianity is at something of a turning point, but I think that this questioning and this reaching is even bigger than Christianity. It reaches into many religious traditions. This wrestling with climate change, and wrestling with the levels of violence in our world, wrestling with authoritarianism and the intractable character of gender oppression — it’s forcing communities within all religions to say, ‘Something is horribly wrong here.’ It’s a spiritual crisis. Many nonreligious people feel it, too. We need a new way entirely to think about what it means to be a human being and what the purpose of our lives is. For me, this moment feels apocalyptic, as if something new is struggling to be born” — The Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, UTS, NYC.
Week of Dec 1, 2019 – 1st Advent
“I See You!”
“Sawubona,” “I see you” is a common greeting amongst South African Zulus. It means, “You are important to me and I value you.” It’s a way to acknowledge the other person in your presence as visible and to accept them as they are with their virtues, nuances, and flaws. Jesus sees us. We see Jesus — Sawubona!
Week of Nov 24, 2019
I was taken aback this week by the term “slaveholder Christianity.” Is this what we have become? The Good News of Jesus only to a few chosen (white and affluent) ones? I hope not. The following is worth our attention and healing!
Week of Nov 17, 2019
God, You Are the Air I Breathe
Your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me
And I I’m lost without you
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me
And I I’m lost without you..”
Week of Nov 10, 2019
Which One Are You?
“I am circling around God, around the ancient tower, and I have been circling for a thousand years, and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke
As you read this poem by Rilke, which one are you? Falcon, storm, or great song? How have each one of us at one time or another been each of these — the times when you soared like a Falcon, emerged as a violent storm, and became a great song? Can you name these times? How did God speak to you in each one of these?
Week of Nov 3, 2019
God —Even Greater?
Carl Sagan (1934-1996) once said this about God and religion:
“How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed.’ . . . A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.”
How is it? Well, I think we have concluded!
Week of October 28, 2019
Just How Big is Your God?
Perhaps your God is just too small?
Think about (then contemplate) this:
God, You work . . .
in the accelerating expansion of the universe
in the spiraling of galaxies
in the explosion of supernovas
in the singularity of black holes
in the regularity of the Solar System
in the equilibrium of the Earth’s ecology
in the evolving of a society
. . .
in the functioning of our organs
in the chemical processes within our bodies
in the forces within the atom
in the “weird” behavior of quantum particles
May I sit in wonder that I live entirely within Your Presence everywhere and in everything and everyone. — Fr. Richard Rohr, www.cac.org
Week of October 21, 2019
Where Did All These “Nones” Come From?
Pondering what happened…
Three Decades Ago, America Lost Its Religion. Why? [From the Atlantic, 8/26/19]
“According to Christian Smith, a sociology and religion professor at the University of Notre Dame, America’s nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.
- “This story begins with the rise of the religious right in the 1970s. Alarmed by the spread of secular culture—including but not limited to the sexual revolution, the Roe v. Wadedecision, the nationalization of no-fault divorce laws, and Bob Jones University losing its tax-exempt status over its ban on interracial dating—Christians became more politically active. The GOP welcomed them with open arms….James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority—had become fundraising and organizing juggernauts for the Republican Party. In 1980, the GOP social platform was a facsimile of conservative Christian views on sexuality, abortion, and school prayer. The marriage between the religious and political right delivered Reagan, Bush, and countless state and local victories. But it disgusted liberal Democrats, especially those with weak connections to the Church…
- “Second, it may have felt unpatriotic to confess one’s ambivalence toward God while the U.S. was locked in a geopolitical showdown with a godless Evil Empire. In 1991, however, the Cold War ended. As the U.S.S.R. dissolved, so did atheism’s association with America’s nemesis. After that, “nones” could be forthright about their religious indifference, without worrying that it made them sound like Soviet apologists.
- “Third, America’s next geopolitical foe wasn’t a godless state. It was a God-fearing, stateless movement: radical Islamic terrorism. A series of bombings and attempted bombings in the 1990s by fundamentalist organizations such as al-Qaeda culminated in the 9/11 attacks. It would be a terrible oversimplification to suggest that the fall of the Twin Towers encouraged millions to leave their church, Smith said. But over time, al-Qaeda became a useful referent for atheists who wanted to argue that all religions were inherently destructive.” (Read the entire article HERE.)
Week of October 14, 2019
The New Cosmology
Judy Cannato (1949-2011), a visionary of a “new cosmology,” wrote the following. Her ideas have been buzzing around in my head ever since. God is THAT big:
“Emergent theories seem to confirm what mystics have been telling us all along—that we are one, not just all human beings, but all creation, the entire universe. As much as we may imagine and act to the contrary, human beings are not the center of the universe—even though we are a vital part of it. Nor are we completely separate from others, but live only in and through a complex set of relationships we hardly notice. Interdependent and mutual connections are integral to all life [my emphasis]….
“My heart tells me that the new physics is not new at all, but simply expresses in yet another way the fundamental truth that underpins creation… What science is saying is not contradictory to but actually resonates with Christian faith and my own experience of the Holy. As I continue to reflect, the new physics gives a fresh framework from which to consider the action of God’s grace at work in human life.”
Week of October 7, 2019
God Says Yes to Me
I just love this poem I ran across last week by Kaylin Haught. The peom gets me to deeply think about God’s love — for me, you, all of us — the God of “Yes!” who redeems, saves, and lifts up. Yes, God!
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
–Kaylin Haught, Poetry 180
Week of September 30, 2019
Being in Hell
Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke (and my subsequent preaching on it) told a parable about a rich man who found himself in hell and a poor man named Lazarus who was “at Abraham’s bosum” (heaven). So what is hell? Is it a place or an existence? This week, Jean Vanier had me thinking about what I said on Sunday — hell is loneliness. And we can prevent it by being mutually connected with others. So let’s keep ourselves out of hell!
―Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
Week of September 23, 2019
The Gift of Water
Thinking about water… and gratitude. The breathtaking-ness of living in God’s creation for us…
“I thought to myself, ‘If we were conscious, we would fall down on our knees and give thanks every day for water and safeguard her with our lives.’ I began to make a practice of saying a prayer of gratitude every time I used water to clean, cook, bathe, or drink. Simple gratitude for her gift of life began to awaken me from my amnesia about the exquisite world we live embedded within.” –Anita Amstutz, Soul Tending: A Journey Into The Heart of Sabbath
Week of September 16, 2019
Wage Disparity: This Needs Fixing
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. EPI believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, and retirement security. Listen to their latest findings concerning CEO-Worker wage disparity:
- The top 350 CEOs in America have an AVERAGE wage of $17,000,000.
- CEO salaries have grown over 1,000% since 1978 while average worker’s salaries during that period increased 12%.
- Curbing CEO pay will not impact company earnings or the economy (it’s about the stock market).
Week of September 9, 2019
You, Me and the Cosmos
I came upon this from Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, “Our molecules are traceable to stars that exploded and spread these elements across the galaxy.” He explains:
[If you] see the universe as something you participate in—as this great unfolding of a cosmic story—that, I think should make you feel large, not small. . . . You will never find people who truly grasp the cosmic perspective . . . leading nations into battle. . . . When you have a cosmic perspective there’s this little speck called Earth and you say, “You’re going to what? You’re on this side of a line in the sand and you want to kill people for what? Oh, to pull oil out of the ground, what? WHAT?” . . . Not enough people in this world, I think, carry a cosmic perspective with them. It could be life-changing.
And to put things into perspective — think about the size of that universe!
- There are at least 200 billion galaxies in our universe.
- There are at least 100-200 billion planets in our galaxy alone, the Milky Way.
- That means there are at least 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000 (one septillion) planets in the universe.
- And we are a part of it. . . .
Week of August 26, 2019
Thinking About Nonviolence
Empirically and scripturally we know nonviolence changes things for the better whereas violence does not. Try this for our national foreign policy or personal practices. Violence is evil and does not work! And yes, the practice of nonviolence calls us to great amounts of courage!
Catholic theologian John Dear is a longtime activist, lecturer, and author/editor of many books. He has served as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and after 9/11, as a coordinator of chaplains for the Red Cross at the New York Family Assistance Center. From 2002-2004, he served as pastor of four churches in New Mexico. He has traveled the war zones of the world, been arrested 75 times for peace, and given thousands of lectures on peace across the country. He lives in New Mexico, and was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. For information about his books, articles and speaking schedule, go to: www.johndear.org
Week of August 19, 2019
The Snowmass Experiment
In 1984 Father Thomas Keating invited a small group of contemplatives from eight different religious traditions—Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Native American, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic—to gather at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, to engage in what he called “a big experiment.” The experiment was to see what would happen when meditators from different traditions meditated together and shared the spiritual insights they gleaned from their meditation. Within a few days it became clear to the attendees that while their religious vocabularies were different, their experiences were not. As one attendee put it: “I know myself and all others to be a part of God. Indeed, there is no other at all, only the One, the Whole, the Ultimate Reality I am calling God. And with this sense of wholeness comes a sense of holiness, a sense of love from and for all beings. . . .” During the Snowmass Conference Eight Points of Agreement came into being.
Eight Points of Agreement
- The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality, to which they give various names.
- Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or concept.
- Ultimate Reality is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualization.
- Faith is opening, accepting, and responding to Ultimate Reality. Faith in this sense precedes every belief system.
- The potential for human wholeness—or, in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transcendence, transformation, blessedness—is present in every human being.
- Ultimate Reality may be experienced not only through religious practices but also through nature, art, human relationships, and service to others.
- As long as the human condition is experienced as separate from Ultimate Reality, it is subject to ignorance and illusion, weakness and suffering.
- Disciplined practice is essential to the spiritual life; yet spiritual attainment is not the result of one’s own efforts, but the result of the experience of oneness with Ultimate Reality.
It took us until the late 20th century to say such things, and now we almost see them as obvious. There is indeed an evolution of consciousness and a convergence of consciousness that does not need to dismiss or dilute any one tradition. [From Fr. Richard Rohr’s website at www.cac.org]
Week of August 12, 2019
Thinking About the Prayer Jesus Taught Us
As you know, we have two versions of the Lord’s Prayer in our Book of Common Prayer — traditional and contemporary. Most of us are more familiar with the traditional version. Although there has always been some translation problems with “trespasses, debts, and sins” depending on your Christian denomination.
To confuse things more, we use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) for our Sunday lectionary and it is even different in Matthew 6:9-13
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.”
Jesus spoke Aramaic (not Hebrew) and so Eugene Peterson in his translation has Jesus saying it this way:
Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.
[The Message (MSG) Matthew 6:9-13 Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.]
Confused? I look at it this way: I prefer using the word SIN rather than debts or trespasses. It helps keep me on my toes. I also don’t believe God “leads us into temptation. So, I go for our contemporary version but deep down prefer Jesus in The Message.
Week of August 5, 2019
A Poem by Wendell Berry
Thinking about this in light of our current political situations…
Also this statement from the staff at the Washington National Cathedral, “Have We No Decency?“.
How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.
For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.
What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy
In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.
State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security;
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.
“Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry from Leavings
Week of July 29, 2019
The Prayer Jesus Taught Us
In last week’s gospel (Luke 11:1-13), Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray. Here’s two translations: The first comes from the Aramaic which Jesus spoke (not Hebrew). The next one comes from Eugene Petersen’s translation from “The Message.”
The Lord’s Prayer
(One possible translation from Aramaic)
O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
Focus your Light within us—make it useful:
Create your reign of unity now—
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light, so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us.
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all shaping will,
the power and the life to do,
the song that beautifies all,
from age to age it renews.
Truly—power to these statements–
May they be the ground from which all
My actions grow: Amen.
— Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos
The Lord’s Prayer
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
Amen (so be it, may my heart’s longings help make it so.)
— Eugene Peterson, The Message
Try each of these translations out with the Lord’s Prayer you are most familiar with. What do you hear? What do each of these prayers say to you?
Week of July 22, 2019
Finding Delight in Everyday Life
This week I was greatly impressed by an interview Krista Tippett (OnBeing.org) had with writer Ross Gay about finding delight in everyday life. I frequently listen to Krista’s insightful interviews with a variety of people. During each interview she begins with asking each person about church or a sense of spirituality early in their lives. You should think about downloading her podcast and making it part of your “practice.”
Week of July 14, 2019
Once more: Who is my neighbor?
One of the essential questions for a Christian is this one: Who is my neighbor? Is he or she my partner, best friend, relative or is there more “neighbors” out there. They answer, of course is all human persons. Ugh! That’s a tough one because we don’t really want to love those who don’t love us — especially those who hate and revile us. Our presiding bishop, Michael Curry takes on Jesus’s (and our) soul-wrenching question in this video. It’s worth a watch.
And we can begin to be more loving by practicing kindness — you don’t like this person? You certainly don’t love that person, but can you begin to be kind to that person?
Kindness can be our first step…
“Deeply embedded in the Christian faith, indeed deeply embedded in the Jewish tradition, which is the mother of the Christian faith, and deeply embedded in the faith and traditions and values of many of the world’s great religions, is a profound conviction in a sure and certain value and virtue that care for the stranger, the alien, the visitor, is a sacred duty, a sacred vow.” — Michael Curry
Week of July 1, 2019
I first met Sr. Joan Chittister when I served on the board of the International Committee on the Peace Council. She was (and is) one of those special “firey” nuns! I ran into this from her this week. She speaks truth to power — both national and ecclesiastical!
“The Sufis tell a story of the Holy One who said to his disciples, ‘What’s better, do you think? Is it contemplation, or is it action?’ . . . They said, ‘Why, Holy One, it’s action, of course. What good is contemplation in a suffering world?’ And the Sufi said, ‘Ah, yes, but what good is action that proceeds from an unenlightened heart?’
“The danger in the contemplative life is that it may become only one half of the spiritual life. . . . Contemplation is not for its own sake. . . . The contemplative life is not spiritual escapism.
“Contemplation is immersion in the God who created this world for all of us. And the mystics of every major religion . . . remind us of that. Hinduism tells us that within the cave of the heart, God dwells, not just in the forest. And the Buddhists say, ‘Buddha is present in all places, in all beings, in all things, in all lands, not just in the monastery.”’ ‘Where can I go to flee from your presence?’ the Jewish Psalmist says [Psalm 139:7]. ‘Whithersoever you turn, there is the face of God,’ Islam teaches. And Christianity reminds us always: ‘Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made’ [Romans 1:20]. . . .
“God is not contained in any one people, in any one kind of place, or in any one tradition. . . . God wills the care of the poor as well as the reward of the rich. . . . God wills the end of oppressors who stand with the heel on the neck of the weak. . . . God wills the liberation . . . dignity and full development of all. . . . God takes the side of the defenseless. And, thus, therefore, must the true contemplative, otherwise that contemplation is not real. . . . The true contemplative, the truly spiritual person, then, must do justice, speak justice, insist on justice. . . . And so must we do whatever justice must be done in our own time if we’re going to claim to be serious about really sinking into the heart of God.”
Week of June 17, 2019
Thinking About Your Love Language
Do you know your love language? How about your partner’s? Your children? Friends? Well, wait no longer, here they are:
l. Words of affirmation – using words to build up the other person. “Thanks for
taking out the garbage.” Not – “It’s about time you took the garbage out. The
flies were going to carry it out for you.”
2. Gifts – a gift says, “He was thinking about me. Look what he got for me.”
3. Acts of Service – Doing something for your spouse that you know they would
like. Cooking a meal, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, are all acts of service.
4. Quality time – by which I mean, giving your spouse your undivided attention.
Taking a walk together or sitting on the couch with the TV off – talking and
5. Physical touch – holding hands, hugging, kissing, sexual intercourse, are all
expressions of love.
Out of these five, each of you has a primary love language which speaks more deeply to you than all the others. Discovering each other’s language and speaking
it regularly is the best way to keep love alive in a marriage.
Find your love language HERE.
Week of June 10, 2019
Thinking About God in Trinity
How do you think about God? (A most poignant question as we approach Trinity Sunday – the great mystery of the “one-in-three, the three-in-one!” I have always had a preference for the way the late Prof. Catherine LaCugna “explains” the Trinitarian God. In my theological preparation, I was greatly impressed by her understanding of the Trinity – her “household of God.”
LaCugna’s vision of the church and its mission in the world was shaped around a life dedicated to loving service, often among forgotten and ignored people. She felt concerned that the doctrine of the Trinity had become a cold, rigid, abstract idea—a doctrine that seemed to have little relevance to the life and work of people on the front lines of ministry and service. LaCugna believed that the doctrine of the Trinity is a “practical doctrine with radical consequences for the Christian life.”
This reminds me when I saw (in person) Rublev’s icon of the Trinity in Moscow. It is about 4 feet tall and powerfully pulled me into its circle of three persons.
“Because of God’s outreach to the creature, God is said to be essentially relational, ecstatic, fecund, alive as passionate love. Divine life is therefore also our life. The heart of the Christian life is to be united with the God of Jesus Christ by means of communion with one another…
“Christian feminism expresses an eschatological hope for the true communion among men and women. In the reign of God, when all tears have been wiped away, women and men will no longer find themselves in the estrangement of “otherness” but will be one in Jesus Christ, living together harmoniously in the household of God . . .
“Living trinitarian faith means living God’s life: living from and for God, from and for others…”
God is about relationship — with God as Father, as Son, as Holy Spirit — and in us and in our relationships with others — all others! Whew!
God for Us, LaCugna, (Catherine Mowry LaCugna was a feminist and trinitarian Catholic theologian. She was the Nancy Reeves Dreux Chair of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.)
Week of June 3, 2019
Thinking about the Holy Spirit
I’ve been deeply thinking about celebrating the Holy Spirit this coming Sunday. What might God have in store for us if we really were to open our hearts to spiritual growth? Some say, if we are not supposed to dance, why the music? I am also thinking about the power of community, our little community at St Peter’s. Sometimes we get a real taste of a beloved community in our family (and we are blessed to have this), sometimes it’s in our volunteer work or membership in a service club. And that’s good, too. But I remember this quote from Elizabeth O’Connor in her book, “The New Community” —
“The vocation of Christians is to be builders of communities that join them with what is highest in themselves, within another and within the whole human race. The most basic thing that Jesus does when he liberates us is to make us caring people who then have the commission to build communities in the places where we live and play and work. No matter how much one individual receives from another, it is never enough for healing. Each of us needs a variety of people and diverse experiences over a long period of time if we are to move toward wholeness.”
It is that opportunity we have through weekly worship and practicing the kindness and love of Jesus that we can experience a beloved community. In Christian community, Jesus gives us the opportunity to be liberated so that we can becoming caring people and carry that “caring-ness” into our families, personal relationships, work, and neighborhood.
Let’s work on this liberation which comes about through the work of God’s Holy Spirit. We only need to be fully open, ask, and receive this growth in Spirit! Come, Lord Jesus!
Week of May 27, 2019
What I’ve Been Thinking About This Week — God is Dance
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Holy Spirit as we approach Pentecost. Recently, Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, wrote about this Mystery of God. It makes good sense. So, put on your dancin’ shoes:
“The very mystical Cappadocian Fathers (Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, and Basil of Caesarea) of fourth-century eastern Turkey eventually developed some highly sophisticated thinking on what the Christian church soon called the Trinity.
“It took three centuries of reflection on the Gospels to have the courage to say it and offer the best metaphor they could find. The Greek word they daringly used was perichoresis or circle dance. (If we’re not supposed to dance, why the good music?)
“Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three—a circle dance of love.
“God is Absolute Friendship. God is not just a dancer; God is the dance itself.
“This pattern mirrors the perpetual orbit of electron, proton, and neutron that creates every atom, which is the substratum of the entire physical universe. Everything is indeed like “the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26-27).”
Fr. Richard Rohr www.cac.org
Week of May 13, 2019
What I’ve Been Thinking About This Week — What Jesus Really Did Say
I regularly follow the writing of Fr. Richard Rohr (Meditations@cac.org). He is a Franciscan and often hits the target (for me) when struggling with inconsistencies within the Christian faith. The article below brings to light what some people have to say about what Jesus really said and what he did say (in the Bible)!
Fr Rohr reminds us that…
- He openly disagrees with Scriptures that emphasize non-essentials and “mere human commandments (see Mark 7:1-23 and almost all of Matthew 23).
- He consistently and openly flouts seemingly sacred taboos like not working on the Sabbath, not meeting with women, not eating with sinners and non-Jews, not touching lepers, and purity codes in general… Jesus has Jewish common sense and can never be called a legalist or a “conservative.” In fact, he is accused of being a libertarian and a non-ascetic, instead of following the strict fasting of John the Baptist and his disciples (see Matthew 9:14).
- Jesus reduces the 613 clear biblical commandments down to two: love of God and love of neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40).
- He minimizes or even replaces commandments, as when he tells the rich young man that it is all fine and good that he has obeyed the Ten Commandments, but what he really needs to do is sell everything and give the money to the poor (see Mark 10:21).
- He omits troublesome verses with which he does not agree, as when he drops the final half verse from the Isaiah scroll when he first reads in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:18-19). The audience would be familiar with the final line of Isaiah 61:2: “to proclaim a day of vengeance from our God.” Yet Jesus ends earlier with “proclaims the Lord’s day of favor.” There he goes again, light and easy with the sacred text! Good Protestants would call that “selectively quoting” and pious Catholics would call it “cafeteria Catholicism.”
- Jesus uses Scripture in rather edgy ways to defend people, like when he says that David went into the temple and took the loaves of offering to feed his troops (Mark 2:26) or tells the story of the poor man who works on the Sabbath to get his donkey out of a ditch (Luke 14:5)… ]This sounds a lot like what many Christians would today call “mere humanism” or “situation ethics.”
- Jesus feels free to reinterpret the Law—for example, when he says, six times in a row, “The Law says . . . but I say” in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-48).
[From “The Law Says . . . But I Say” [January 10, 2019; Fr Richard Rohr] Center for Action and Contemplation. See Meditations@cac.org.]
Week of May 5, 2019
Ramadan and why it is so important for Muslims around the world
[The following is a partial excerpt from an article on May 5th on the online publication of Aljazerra.] Ramadan began on Monday (May 5th) this year. And I have been thinking about our Muslim brothers and sisters and the importance of fasting as part of our spiritual journey to come closer to God.
“Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims. Every year, Muslims around the world fast during daylight hours, but what is it really about?
“Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. Healthy adult Muslims fast in Ramadan from dawn until dusk. This includes abstaining from drinking, eating, immoral acts and anger. Other acts of worship such as prayer, reading the Quran and charity are also encouraged during the holy month.
“Muslims also believe the Quran was revealed in Ramadan. During the holy month, Muslims wake up early to eat a pre-dawn meal called suhoor, and they break their fast with a meal referred to as iftar. It is common for mosques to host large iftars, especially for the poor and needy. Nightly prayers called Tarawih are also held in mosques after iftar.
“Different cultures have different traditions during Ramadan, whether it is a special food they must cook, or eating iftar with the extended family. Islamic tenets such as generosity inspired most of these traditions, including sharing food and inviting guests over for iftar…
“Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. There is also a verse in the Quran that prescribes fasting for all Muslims who are mature and healthy enough to do so for the full day. So Muslims fast as an act of worship, a chance to get closer to God, and a way to become more compassionate to those in need. Fasting is also seen as a way to learn patience and break bad habits…”
Week of April 29, 2019
There is no doubt that the resurrection of Jesus has been a bone of contention not only in our time but since the earliest beginnings of the Christian faith. I don’t see an easy way to explain this event. It’s a mystery to me. Why did God raise Jesus just then? Why not earlier… later? But we are told through those who experienced this event that it/something happened — how? We do not know.
But when I look around the universe (thanks to today’s astronomers and physicists) I am not too surprised at the possibility of an event like the resurrection of a body. But that aside (if you can) how does/has resurrection played out in your life? How were you once dead and now live? Do you have such story? I do. And that’s why I can still be a person who believes in science and a person who believes in God. The two are not mutually exclusive but rather complimentary.
Some may say that they cannot be a person of faith because they cannot or will not believe in miracles. I understand that. But miracles are portals of faith, they help us get a better glimpse of who and what God is. God is a raiser-up, a healer, and a comforter. I guess that this time in my life that has been and will continue to be enough for me to worship this God who has shown himself in the person of Jesus — a God who is creator of this vast, and I might say totally mysterious universe. It is enough for me. This is a God who called me out, planted me here, and who continues to reveal this God-self in the prayers and the breaking of bread! Yes, Christ is risen and so can we be! Alleluia! Come and see!
Week of April 7, 2019
[This week i ran into Romero’s “A Future Not Our Own.” It was balm for a social activist, priest, and parent of adult children like me! In 1980, Romero was martyred as Archbishop of San Salvador for his unrelenting stance regarding those poor and most vulnerable in society. His assassins chose to kill him while he was celebrating mass. He was killed because he strongly spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture in his nation. A right-wing death squad extinguished his life and ministry. No one was ever convicted of the crime. In 2019, he was made a saint in the Roman Church by Pope Francis. We Anglicans venerate him.]
Week of March 31st, 2019
[This week’s thinking brought me back to this great story by Corrie ten Boon on forgiving her capture while she was in a Nazi camp during World War II. I often wonder if I would have had the courage and faith to do what she did in order to purge resentment from her life.]
I’m Still Learning to Forgive
by Corrie ten Boom
It was in a church in Munich where I was speaking in 1947 that I saw him – a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat, the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.
Memories of the concentration camp came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment of skin.
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. This man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”
It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein-” again the hand came out – “will you forgive me?”
And I stood there – and could not. Betsie had died in that place – could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I ever had to do.
For I had to do it – I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then…
- More on Corrie ten Boon at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrie_ten_Boom
- The Enright Forgiveness Process Model: https://internationalforgiveness.wordpress.com/tag/enright-forgiveness-process-model/
- Interview with Dr. Enright about “The Forgiving Life:” https://www.apa.org/pubs/books/interviews/4441016-enright
Week of March 25th, 2019
[Note: I am going to try to post something each week about various thoughts and concerns I have outside of my weekly homilies and “Pastor’s Pen.” I hope you will feel free to engage with me on these various topics as we press on and follow Jesus]
Belief creeds have been around since the early days of our faith. The Nicene Creeds covers what WE (the Church) believes (and this comes from the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E. Liturgically, we have used the Apostles’ Creed as our baptismal creed; that is, what a Christian ought to believe. It is said either by the one about to be baptized or his/her sponsors. It is also used when one reaffirms his/her faith — notably at Easter. We can also find various creedal writings by some of the rock stars of our faith — Irenaeus, Tertullian, Ambrose, and Augustine,
The problem I have with creeds is this: they seem to be about one’s beliefs and not ACTION. What is it we are to DO as followers of Jesus? Needless to say, I am not the first person to think about this and what applied Christianity should be! The National Council of Churches (of which we belong) has also struggled with this as early as 1908. They write:
“Just as the churches responded to the harshness of early 20th Century industrialization with a prophetic ‘Social Creed’ in 1908, so in our era of globalization we offer a vision of a society that shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and equality over domination, and finds security in joined hands rather than massed arms.
“Inspired by Isaiah’s vision of a ‘peaceable kingdom,’ we honor the dignity of every person and the intrinsic value of every creature, and pray and work for the day when none ‘labor in vain or bear children for calamity’ (Isaiah 65:23). We do so as disciples of the One who came “that all may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10), and stand in solidarity with Christians and with all who strive for justice around the globe…”
While we should affirm what we BELIEVE as followers of Jesus, so should we also articulate what it is that Christians are to DO. When we do this we will run head long into today’s problems such as those of immigration, health care, just wages, worker’s rights and militarism.
Take a look at the following materials. I would enjoy some discussion on this. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with me on Sunday.
- How do you see us using the Social Creed or the Litany in our Sunday liturgy?
The Social Creed
- We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.
- We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.
- We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.
- We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.
- We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.
- We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.
- We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.
A Litany for Social Justice
God in the Spirit revealed in Jesus Christ,
calls us by grace
to be renewed in the image of our Creator,
that we may be one
in divine love for the world.
Today is the day
God cares for the integrity of creation,
wills the healing and wholeness of all life,
weeps at the plunder of earth’s goodness.
And so shall we.
Today is the day
God embraces all hues of humanity,
delights in diversity and difference,
favors solidarity transforming strangers into friends.
And so shall we.
Today is the day
God cries with the masses of starving people,
despises growing disparity between rich and poor,
demands justice for workers in the marketplace.
And so shall we.
Today is the day
God deplores violence in our homes and streets,
rebukes the world’s warring madness,
humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.
And so shall we.
Today is the day
God calls for nations and peoples to live in peace,
celebrates where justice and mercy embrace,
exults when the wolf grazes with the lamb.
And so shall we.
Today is the day
God brings good news to the poor,
proclaims release to the captives,
gives sight to the blind, and
sets the oppressed free.
And so shall we.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2016. Copyright 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.
- A PDF guide for understanding and applying the Social Creed: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/connectingtothecreed.pdf
- A bulletin insert and the Social Creed: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/social_creed_bulletin_insert_rev.pdf
- NCC (National Council of Churches) and the Social Creed: http://www.ncccusa.org/news/ga2007.socialcreed.html