Love and Security

February 24th, 2015

Love and security … the same or not?

We know loves importance ….

Love is our vital core. We grow warm because of its presence, and cold because of its absence, and when it is completely gone, we die. (Heaven and Hell 14, Emanuel Swedenborg)

And we know how when love is present, we can settle into a peace, a miraculous peace, a vital core, a peace which as Christ says “passes all understanding.”  It feels secure there.

But there is another security that love is not.  That security remains needy, self serving and clutching.  Churches must work in the space that questions that type of security.

I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.  I do not want to a Church concerned with being at the center and which then ends up being caught in a web of obsessions and procedures…. More than our fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within  structures which give a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits that make us feel safe…..


Allowing Christ To Make a Claim On Us

February 18th, 2015

An incredibly powerful picture.  One tide breaking against another.  Look at the hands….

And why?  Why were they able to stand there – hands where they were – knowing that what they feared would happen did?

I wonder if this is why … because they understood.  Christ had made a claim on their lives. And they listened.

And it was not the claim of anger.  Not the claim of fear, of “states rights,” of historical memories tight like traps.  It was the claim of love, mutual love. One language … “the common good of all.”  Courage.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

Only Love Can Be Entrusted With Truth

February 11th, 2015

“Only love can be entrusted with truth.” Fr. Richard Rohr

Early Christian history – beautiful because it fills with all the very normal human foibles and contortions.  Not a sterile pile of sanctified brethren but a pile of simple humanity.  Loved by God.  Lurching their way forward one bad choice, then one redeemed choice at a time.

So we must smile at the story in Acts 15.   The belonging police issue an edict.  ”Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved.”  (Act 15:1)  Boom.  Unequivocal.  Measurable. No doubts. So we need to smile, smile at the painfully recognizable human tendency to create forced barriers of entry – a figurative secret handshake only the “chosen” know.

Thankfully the redeeming words of those of who knew Christ won the day … “It is my judgement that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (Act 15:19)  Not sure how they found such graceful words but there you have it … a simple statement.  A simple invitation. “Lets not make this thing hard”, an echo of Christ’s words, “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Faith can become either.  Either a form of exclusion or a form of inclusion.  The former grows in places where love recedes.

The knowledge of spiritual and heavenly realities and even the mysteries of faith become nothing more than objects of memory when the people who are adept at them have no love for others. (Secrets of Heaven, 1197)

And there is a choice.  A choice to not make this thing hard … life is hard enough.  A sacrificial choice then to love.  A love that can be entrusted with the truth.


Living Patiently in a Construction Zone

February 5th, 2015

We give our hearts, often, to those things that are at best clunky and rude.  We give our hearts to work, to jobs, where yes we find joy but also frustration and fear.  We give our hearts to our beloveds, where yes we find love but also disappointment, vulnerability, loss.

And our ego would have us eagerly believe the long anticipated and well earned blessing is out there, somewhere else with someone else.   Then our hearts would be truly free.  Then at last we would be truly seen.

Something seems to say that is not how it works.  That maybe the universal addiction is the addiction to our own plans.

So there must be a newness, a new way of seeing, a new way to slip beneath the waves or above the clouds – take your pick.

Maybe we are to have, what one author called, a continued “lover’s quarrel” with life.   One where the commitment remains.  Where the commitment stays.  But where that commitment allows for that thing we must push against.  Welcomes it.  A life filled with events and people – “traffic” – that does not yield to our opinions, our plans, our relentless pushing this way or that.

Maybe there, in forced patience and surrender, we find the soft ground where faith grows.

Churches and the End of Geography

February 1st, 2015

Some thoughts from author Seth Godin …

Some of the most important inventions of the last hundred years:

Air conditioning–which made it possible to do productive work in any climate

Credit cards–which enabled transactions to take place at a distance

Television–which homogenized 150 world cultures into just a few

Federal Express and container ships–which made the transport of physical goods both dependable and insanely cheap

The internet–which moved information from one end of the world to the other as easily as across the room

Cell phones–which cut the wires

If you’re still betting on geography, on winning merely because you’re local, I hope you have a special case in mind.

It is hard to argue with Seth’s observations.  Churches need to be aware. We are intensely local bodies.  But that definition of “local” is changing rapidly and maybe irrevocably.   We are centered in Pennsylvania. And when I talk to those in Florida, they just don’t seem that far away.


Finding Meaning Outside of the Mall

January 28th, 2015

One veteran, returning from Iraq, wondered when did “America become a giant mall with a country attached.”  How did life in the military at times feel “holier” than the “gluttonous, oversexed, over-consuming, materialist home where we are too lazy to see our own faults?”


Good questions.  Painful.  Confrontative.  Good questions.

Part of me hates to even hear them.  Maybe because I know, at least in part, that they speak to an uncomfortable truth.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)

I know,on most days, there is meaning in places other than the mall.

A Simple Story of Being Naked And Drunk

January 21st, 2015

A simple story from the Bible… not one of Noah and his Ark.  Not the nursery story of Noah leading the animals in two by two.  Not one of God’s eternal covenant with Noah, a covenant sealed by the beauty of a rainbow.  But this story of Noah … naked and drunk.

“And Noah drank some wine and become drunk, and was naked in the middle of the tent.”  (Gen. 9:21)

This is the genius of the Bible for me … no one perfect.  No one beyond reproach.  All flawed.  All loved.

And there is another story here … a story of forgiveness and kindness as two of Noah’s three sons cover their father’s nakedness, gently, and the story of a third brother  who only saw the naked drunk.

And in the midst of this story, our story.

The third brother, Ham, only able, with sneering contempt, to notice flaws. He pictures a cruel us.  Lacking “all kindness [they] radiate hatred from every pore.  They want to examine and in fact judge everyone, craving nothing more than to find evil, constantly bent on … condemning, punishing and torturing others.” (Secrets of Heaven 1079) A degraded faith, a faith catastrophically split from charity, a doctrinal paradigm corrupt and toxic.  A faith only concerned with “arguing whether a thing is true and knowing exactly how matters stand.”  (Secrets of Heaven 1072)   A view of faith that leads such people “to mock and broadcast the faults of others whenever the opportunity arrises.”

But the other two brothers?  Life there.

No interest in debate here but only interest in affirmation.   Interest not in flaws but in drawing attention to the good qualities all possess. “Whatever evil and falsity they may see, they excuse, and if they can, they work to correct it.” (Secrets of Heaven 1079)  Everything unseemly, bent to what is good.

A very modern story.  Blessed and broken as we all are.

And Some Days Are Just Sweet

January 13th, 2015

Some days are just sweet.  Some days life is calm and paced.  A sign maybe of grace.

Not all days are that way.

Ignatius noted the danger of “disordered attachments.”  Those attachments that get between us and God, attachments which bind instead of free.

How do we know, how do we discern what is “disordered”?  For me, I know the feeling of those “disordered attachments” … anxious, must-have-now, short lived, fevered.  And instead of peaceful satisfaction? Guilt.

But ordered “attachments” bring connection and a certain graceful rhythm. They quietly champion commitment and courage, not as some aggrandizing, righteous add-on but as the settled movement towards the “next-right-thing.”

It is what makes some days just sweet.


An Implanted Promise

January 9th, 2015

We all carry what Father Richard Rohr terms “An Implanted Promise”, a deeply held spirit within us, connected to God.  God both abides and enters there.

In New Church circles that implanted promise rests on innocence, charity, and mercy.  Restated the promise rests on a ….

  1. Willingness to be led
  2. Kindness towards our fellow human being
  3. Compassion
These “tether” us to heaven, a heaven we always carry.  Simply part of the human condition.  Can we ignore those deeper roots of implanted humanity? Absolutely. That is the crux of human freedom.  But they remain, for eternity, waiting to be employed.

When Faith Becomes A Weapon: Terrorism in Paris

January 8th, 2015

Faith and religion, at there best, represent incredible forces towards healing, mercy, kindness … the better angels of our nature.  And at times faith and religion represent the exact opposite as they did in Paris yesterday with the killing of 12 individuals who worked for the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, a killing carried out by Islamic terrorists.

Religiously fueled terrorism of this sort is especially depraved.  It grows out of a mindset anchored in a view of God as wrathful, angry, vindictive … clothing God then in our depravities.  The frightening nature of these attacks however may stem mostly from the fact that they can be perpetrated guilt free.  A crazy, transparently false line of reasoning may go, “If God calls for, sanctions and blesses such an attack, who am I to feel guilty carrying it out?”

What then is the answer?  What do we do when faith becomes a weapon?

For some, this attack yet again reinforces the dangers of religion as a whole, a thought which gives rise to much of the militant atheism in Western culture.  And that is understandable in a sense if all one knows of religion are these attacks.

Important to note however that some of the worse of modern day demagogues clearly rejected religion.  Hitler, Stalin and Mao …. all saw religion as weak.   All worked to eliminate it from their nations.  Each killed millions. Hitler repeatedly noted that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on science, which in the long run could not “co-exist with religion.”  While he did reference Christianity, no doubt playing to political concerns, it is hard to imagine he held any sincere Christian beliefs given his virulent anti-semitism.

So what then is the answer?

To do what Christians are called to do.

To stand for peace.  To “bind the wounds” of the broken.   And importantly, to pray.  And that prayer is for the healing of those hurt. For the grieving families of those who have lost loved ones.  For the trauma of a nation.  And that prayer is even for the terrorists themselves, as hard and as misaligned as that may appear.

Three prayers in Christianity – The Lord’s Prayer/ The Our Father – the Oneness prayer in John – and Christ’s Prayer of Forgiveness of the Cross.  All call on us to pray for healing.

  • “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
  • “… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
  • “Father forgive them for know not what they do.”

That does not erase the need for accountability.  These attacks must be confronted and denounced, facing the darkness in the human heart, wherever it may reside.

And the spirit of that confrontation must return us yet again to the better angels of our nature.