Archive for April, 2011

Mother’s Day

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

May 8th is Mother’s Day.  We want to invite you to join us at NewChurch LIVE that day.  A service like this needs to start with the acknowledgement that many of us harbor the warm feelings of home as we talk about mothers.  For others however, the experience was not so warm.   Parents, like individuals, and children, are a mixed bag!

And taking the time to honor our actual mothers or those who played that role in our lives is important.  I was thinking about fairy tales.  The tale is most frequently of the kindly child who looses a mother only to have an evil step mother take the role of parent, i.e. Cinderella, Snow White etc…. We know at a deep level the importance then of motherhood.

So join us on Sunday, May 8th.  Celebrate your mother or  an important woman in your life.  Send me a photo and/ or some text – chuck.blair@newchurchlive.tv – and if I receive enough, we will show it during the service.

The Need for Creeds

Monday, April 25th, 2011

A particularly enjoyable interview I heard once was on the “Need for Creeds.”  The author’s point was that creed’s provide a necessary container for human growth.  I imagine it being like the practicing scales in music.  We master the basics so that we can eventually improvise and create.  This article by David Brooks is in that same vein.

Creed or Chaos

It is patently easy to be dismissive of overly rigid, dogmatic theology.  And, frankly, those clergy who give themselves over to the pursuit of purity and perfection in the name of serving a rigid and dogmatic theology do a disservice to the life of faith – a clear warning given by Jesus in his dealings with the Pharisees.  Yet that does excuse the need for structure, form – for a degree of certitude by which to navigate.

Why Celebrate Easter? (Hint: Change is one thing. Transformation another.)

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Why celebrate Easter?   In a way, it is a more significant holiday than either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Why is that?

Life is filled with numerous changes.  It also fills with several transformations.  Change and transformation – different beasts.  Change is simply an altering of external circumstances – we move, we get a new job, we loose our hair.  But transformation – that is stuff of the soul.  And Easter centers on transformation.

The deepest transformation it celebrates, from a New Church perspective is the final uniting of the Divine and Human – the two brought together completely in Jesus – God and Man.  His death was the final walking of the human journey.  His resurrection – His raising of His humanity to cloth the Divine.

This kind of high theology is maybe hard to grasp.  I certainly need to ground it for myself – oh – and that’s the point.  We need to ground it for ourselves.  That is the point of Jesus walking on this Earth, facing all the temptations and challenges of the human condition, including hopelessness.   So we could have a loving and compassionate view of God – an embodied, knowable image of God that gives us a model of how to live in such a way as receive the true peace, the true joy He promises.

So get to Church this Easter.  Celebrate the transformation.  Think about your own.  Reach out to someone in the midst of one as we rejoice this Easter at the greatest of gifts – LIFE!

The Only Way Through It, Is, Well, Through It

Friday, April 8th, 2011

In the hours before the horror of the Easter Story began to unfold, Jesus sat with a number of disciples and asked them to “Stay and watch with Me.”  He also prayed, prayed in a way known to the broken, known to those facing overwhelming pain and disappointment.

Within that prayer, one section is especially noted in the Gospel of Matthew. “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

It is easy to read this prayer as a plea for the cup of suffering to pass from Him.  But there is more there on a closer reading. Note – the Cup will pass, but it will only pass with it drinking.  Restated, the only way through is through.  This is knowledge we can possess at our core.  (see the following clip from Harry Potter)

Yet we live in such a way that we would never choose that – of course one would reject suffering.  Of course we would push the cup away.  But the Divine plan includes a falling, a falling that is needed for life to spring anew.  That is the right kind of dying.  Of course it is often accompanied by pain.  But faith is the understanding that there is a Knower, there is a purpose which we can only glimpse as we enter the valleys of life’s journey.

I been been witness to this death over and over again in people whose courage is simply breathtaking.   In the midst of the storm, of course they don’t see it as such and resolutely push back on any accolades.  But those are the very still, quiet, strong souls who somehow keep it all together and here I speak of a “keeping it all together” on a much broader plain than their individual lives.  They are the community of saints in a certain respect who balance the lives of those around them in unforeseen ways.

“While a person is being regenerated and becoming spiritual he is involved constantly in conflict.”

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Regeneration – re-creation – is not for wimps!  Emanuel Swedenborg, who wrote much of our Christian New Church canon, was clear.  It is hard work.  Many of us find ourselves in what can feel like actual hell, far removed from God, our loved ones, and our fellow human beings.  We even feel far removed from ourselves.

That conflict is not without purpose.  Important to acknowledge – these are not “tests” that God sends down from on high.  These are tests of our own choosing, even though we may well not have chosen the particular circumstances we find our life in.  How does that work?

Well, I believe it starts with the candid acknowledgement that if we find ourselves in hell, it is the hell of our own choosing.  We can, as a famous saint noted, make our life “heaven all the way to heaven or hell all the way hell.”  And there is the source conflict.

Visualize a 12 inch ruler measuring the depth of your life.  11 of those inches are often garbage – the petty parts of our human nature – greed, anger, jealously, revenge, avarice – all there.  At the bottom inch is God’s Divine Spark – purely gifted to you, as your own, for you to use as your own.  It is already in heaven.  It is already connected to God.  It is already in God.

Regeneration is about bringing our lives down to that inch, allowing our existence to settle in that place so we can act from that place.  From there we look from the light to the darkness and, miracle, the darkness is no longer dark.  It no longer holds power.  The “11 inches” is nothing – no thing.

It does not happen without conflict.  I see in myself often the mistaken belief that the 11 inches was actually created by someone else, that I never chose it.  And yet, gulp, I did, and I do.  Of course people hurt people – absolutely.   Yet, do we see light or darkness?  From the 11 inches or the 1?  Do we chose heaven all the way to heaven, or hell all the way to hell?

Homework For Sunday – Bring Your Dream

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Whether you join us in person or via the web, it is important to think about Dreams.  Thursday, as the Sermon Writing Team added the polish to Sunday, one thought really struck.  What if what separated us from our dreams was the same thing that separated us from other people?  It seems like a good question to ask – uncomfortable but good.  I certainly see in my life many similarities in terms of barriers.  God has a lot to offer in terms of tools to bring those barriers down.

So think about your dream.  Bring it to Church Sunday.  Lets have a conversation.  Maybe try the livestream on Facebook to join us online in real time.  And think aboout your dream.  Don’t think about it as a “fantasy”, a “day dream”, but maybe for a moment think about it as the real thing.