Archive for December, 2011

Predictions for 2012

Friday, December 30th, 2011

The role of a pastor is far more about walking with people in the present than about predicting the future! That being said, maybe there is some value in offering a few thoughts about 2012.

Economic Dislocation Will Continue
We are in a time of sea-change. Many of these shifts I believe are permanent and will create not only anxiety but dislocation. And the fact is that humanity does very well, usually, at the rock bottom. We figure it out. (Sounds crazy right!) I think that happens because we start looking for places other than our pocketbook for meaning. As Richard Rohr notes “in desperate and dark situations where the old god doesn’t work anymore, the old self and the old attitudes don’t work anymore. “Our gods much each die until we find the True God.” Each dying god is another darkness and another death.” Finding the True God is HOPE.

Expect To See Signs Of Hope
The hope will not come in ever expanding financial resources. It will come, I believe, in a “settling.” Love whispers. Fear screams. Love will whisper some powerful messages in 2012!

Live Into Solutions
And if you are reading this, you are part of the solution. Live into it. There is a lot of work ahead. NewChurch LIVE is just one part of a different sea-change, a different shift that will meet new economic realities through alternative offerings. We are in the end to be just that – an alternative – an alternative to fear, anxiety, hatred, and need.

We are ready for 2012! May God bless your journey. May God bless this congregation. May God bless this world.

The Post Christmas Hangover

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Christmas seems to always be followed by a lull.  The joy of buying gifts is rapidly replaced by the hassled “ugh” of returning them for the right size, for one that works, for new batteries  blah …..   And then there is packing up the tree …..

I was wondering if maybe that just isn’t a sign for me that I “missed it.”  I think of the Shepherds coming into the stable to see the Christ child.  Imagine Mary looking up.  What would her thoughts have been?  I imagine something to the effect of “They get it!.  These shepherds know what this is about!”  And most times, I don’t.  Too full of my self, my plans, my opinions, my thoughts and my “schedule” I “miss it.”   Just do this one simple exercise – look at your schedule – take out one item that involves shopping in one way, shape or form.  Erase the event. And write in “Pray.”  Bet you can’t do it!

There is such knee bending, mind blowing, transformative, shattering humility woven throughout the entire Christmas story.   Maybe that is where to “get it” and “keep it.”

God, be born in my life in a new way.


Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

So it is easy to imagine what I should write about Christmas. It is difficult maybe to find words around what I am called to write.

We are building a church. That journey led us through several major crises including the February budget reductions. And where, maybe, we now find ourselves is in a far more quite and humble place… a place to simply listen to the quiet call of what this is all about.

The profoundness of that place is so well seen in the spirit of Christmas. I am not talking here of the muscular, amped up Christianity out to solve all the wrongs of the world but of the gentle, compassion filled, patient Christianity that I believe lies closer to God’s heart and settles us into a place where He can truly be born again in our lives.

What of that birth? We find Him on the margins, in a stable. We find Him at night, in reduced circumstances. We find Him in life as we live it – uninvited but brilliant in His showing. We find Him in each other, His gentle spirit showing itself in the profound love growing in this community who were strangers one to another a few short years ago.

“Peace on earth. Goodwill to men” – God’s “mission statement” as extolled by the angels at Christmas. In the book “True Christianity”, Emanuel Swedenborg put it this way. “Goodwill makes the connection because God loves every one of us but cannot directly benefit us; He can benefit us … indirectly through each other.”

“Goodwill makes the connection.” The more goodwill takes root in our DNA as individuals and as a church body, the more we join a wider movement, more profound level of change… the more we make the connection.

I shared with my sister a few nights ago that through this journey, I feel like I am now privy to a secret, as in something not everybody knows (yet!:)) That “secret” is not NewChurch LIVE. That secret is falling into the immense grace of God, a sky on fire with His love, and a community of angels-in-training.

Blessing to all!

In Memory of Vaclev Havel

Monday, December 19th, 2011

I remember the 10th grade World Cultures student speaking to me at the window on the second floor of my Pocono Mountain Senior classroom.  His question, earnestly asked, was “Do you think the Berlin Wall will ever fall?”  Having come of age in the Cold War, such a Wall-less world seemed fanciful.  My retort – “Maybe in your life time but not in mine.”   Within 2 weeks, the wall fell.

In the coming years, I came to know more of Vaclev Havel, the eventual President of the Czech Repulic who rose to power 8 days after the Berlin Wall fell.  What so fascinated me about the man – a poet by profession – was the overt way he used faith to guide and undergird the burgeoning democracies in Eastern Europe.  He spoke to a democracy with a “soul”, a concept far removed from my American perspective, one in which yes democracy was painted with light patina of spirituality, but certainly not given a “soul.”  As such, as one commentator noted, his “moral authority was bale to stretch a weak presidency beyond what was written in the constitution.”

I remember the resonance of his words that we are  as “beings that have fallen out of Being.”  To return to Being, his call from straightforward; “The only possible place to begin is with myself . . .it is I who must begin . . . For the hope opened up in my heart by this turning toward Being has opened my eyes as well. . . . Whether all is really lost or not depends entirely on whether I am lost.”

So I will miss that presence, and that language, a language so clear on the deeper calls embedded within.


Wedding Charge for Jon and Catherine Allen

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Catherine and Jonathan, there is so much to share on a day, on a threshold as important as today. You no doubt have been told by many what it takes to have a successful marriage. Some advice is worthwhile – other advice is valuable only as a smile, nod and move on. What I would like to speak to is a sort of non-advice.

It comes down to this – enter your marriage with empty hands.

Few of us do that frankly. We enter marriage hands loaded. What are our hands loaded with? We like to think hopes and dreams – and that is partially true – but we also enter marriage with all our beliefs and expectations of what MY marriage will look like, and how the future will unfold. So we load up with all our expectations and plans for MY marriage. And yet there has to be the soft place to allow OUR marriage to grown. One guarantee I can give you, your marriage will in the end look nothing like you imagine. It some ways it will be a brighter future, in other ways more dim, but always changing, always dynamic – and more precious than you can imagine.

Unloading our hands takes times. For some of us decades. And the sooner we do it, the better I believe. See imagine what happens with empty hands.

With an empty hand we better hold the unanticipated joy of life. With an empty hand Jonathan, you can turn to her and offer a dance. With an empty hand Catherine you can accept.

With an empty hand we can better hold as well the breakings of life. You will know pain. Those who contract with pain – a clenched fist as it were – never allow pain to transform them but can only transfer that pain onto others. With an empty hand reaching for help and receiving help in return we don’t contract. The pain will be, but the pain will be an opening, a crack through which the light gets in.

With an empty hand you will accept the future. I was struck several weeks ago in some pastoral work noting how many times I hear (and experienced in my own marriage) this desire to “get back” to something. “I know we were crazy in love when we first were engaged. I want to get back to there.” Well, that is nice in a nostalgic way but from here on out there is no going back. Better things are in store than what was- which is a life’s work to understand.

God is leading you somewhere. He is not showing up with a grand blue print accompanied by a detailed strategic plan. What He is showing up with are far more organic tools – His Word, love, compassion, friends, family, one another – all part of the great stream, the great river of His Divine Providence that will bring you home. And we can only hold His Word, love, compassion, friends, family, one another – you guessed it, with empty hands.

So of course I wish you many things. And in my heart, I know in a sense, that God is asking me actually to wish you No Thing. He is asking me to wish you empty hands for the journey. We are just plain too attached to this life and we confuse this life with LIFE. Enter the LIFE of marriage unencumbered – just like you did when you were born.

Marriage gives us glimpses into LIFE. It allows us to witness it in seeing you two, even if it is just for a moment. Eventually you will sitting right there, in the front row where your parents are sitting right now and you will know exactly what I mean.

And you will know LIFE when you partner passes. We don’t pass at the same time as our partner. One will go first. And what will you look back and remember if the other goes first? You will look back and remember all the precious blessings that God and your beloved placed in your empty hands.

And the story will not end. I think when we enter heaven, God in a sense asks to see our hands. They will be nicked and cut, a few callouses, but hopefully empty. And God with smile, and He will gently tell you somebody has been waiting for a dance!



What Matters, What Lasts, What Is

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

I was stunned yesterday by reading an article in the New York Times that stated that the our emissions of global warming gasses increased at the greatest amount ever noted in 2010 – climbing by 5.9% over 2009.

Mentioning “Global Warming” in any context is problematic as it seems to instantly engender a debate.  And yet, to be frank, as a die hard moderate who sees both sides of most things, it appears, to my reading that the overwhelming evidence points to dramatic and dark consequences.  Simple logic, for me, follows thus – if I run my car in my garage I endanger my family.   Therefore it stands to reason dangerous gasses put into the atmosphere, are, well, dangerous.

What saddens me is how little attention the issue receives.  Joblessness, European Debt Crisis, Terrorism – those are the biggies.

I think faith gives us that consistent call to consider what matters, what lasts, and what is.  In the fervor to create jobs, to solve all manner of economic problems so economies can continue to grow and living standards expand we often miss a deeper conversation.   I really don’t know of another vehicle that will call us to that deeper conversation than faith.  My hope is that a more settled conversation at least starts soon.  Maybe we will even be part of it.

That conversation would hopefully look to how to bring God’s kingdom to earth, a kingdom of grace, care, and compassion.  And there are parts – costs if you will – to having that conversation.  The “costs” grow when we expand the conversation to the earth because that conversation will bring into question some long held sacred assumptions we have made about how society is organized.  It is a conversation demanding the best of the American entrepreneurial spirit but now applied not in the consumption of resources but the in the growth of deeper resources with which to address more lasting problems – problems that in the the long run matter.   The battle of Global Warming will need to be addressed by the best of science, the best of industry, the best of government, the best of faith … the best of us.  Of course we won’t “want” to do it … and maybe that is part of the point as well.