Archive for June, 2012

Creating Time to Think In A World of 571 New Websites Per Minute

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Within our culture, little effort goes towards time to think.  Look at the graphic below and how it speaks to the online explosion of information.  This graphic will look obsolete in a few short years.

On the eve of General Church Clergy Meetings the above is germane.  The General Church is the parent body under which NewChurch LIVE was established and generously funded as way to live into the world the graphic speaks to.

The good news of the above is that Churches, Synagogues, and Mosques with an online presence can now reach many times the people they preiovusly.  With our services, over the past 2 weeks I have heard from folks watching in California, Florida, Canada, as well as locally.    Some of the contacts have been rather dramatic. When people are in trouble, serious trouble, many search the web.  As the graphic notes, “Data Never Sleeps.”  A good thing in the case of those searching.

And there is a shadow side.  I remember pulling out of a parking lot, listening to Rob Bell, the best-selling author of “Love Wins” speaking.  In 2 sentences, he put it out there.  His church at that time, Mars Hills, was committed to never doing videos of services.  Why?  Because the last thing he wanted on his conscience was the knowledge that he had put a small church congregation “out of business” as congregants chose to tune in vs. join in.  His point was stark, we need to fulfill Christ’s message in how live, in community, and in relationship, not in video.

I don’t know how the future will unfold.  Does a church embrace technology as a way to share its message?  Or does it eschew technology as a way to build alternative community?  These are very hard questions, ones clergy and laity will wrestle with as we seek to do God’s work.   The future I would imagine will be some all-or-nothing approaches spanning the continuum of purely web based models to resurgent home churches.  For the time being, NewChurch LIVE will be an amalgam of both.  And if I was humbly to offer what a “True North” of sorts might be, it would be this.  Christ I believe would be far more concerned with community than with clicks.  How do we build that?

Do We Know Maybe It Is Time?

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Do we know maybe it is time?

Do we know that the greatest of spiritual gifts is freedom?  The ability to choose to love. The ability to do. And yet we think it is the time to debate, to argue, to accuse.  So we fall in love with agenda and position, and not each other and God.  These words of CS Lewis land uncomfortably.

“There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself…as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist!  There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man!  Ye see it in smaller matters. Did ye ever know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organizer of charities that had lost all love for the poor?  It is the subtlest of all the snares.”

So, what if we took God’s dare and created?  What if we saw God’s Word not as us waiting for Him to act but as Him waiting for us to act?   What if we took Him at His Word?  Take care of the stranger (Old Testament).  Do not be afraid (New Testament).  Hatred and charity cannot exist together. (New Church Theology)

We often make religion so small.  And the Spirit yet is so big.  The implications of incarnated faith immense.  The scope breathtaking.  The words transformational.  And we cram all that grandeur down into small, petty boxes – with labels like women’s ordination, adultery, homosexuality, worship style.  Those mysteriously and tragically morphed into “the work” of church.   And it is hard to see those as Christ’s issues.   He welcomed and embraced women’s voices in a way uncategorically revolutionary for that time and culture.  He saved a woman caught in adultery.  He got people to put the rocks of judgment down.  He never directly addressed homosexuality.  And He preached outdoors, in a robe, from a boat, on a mountain, in a synagogue, using props and people, and jokes and smiles and clear statements of right and wrong.   Believe in Him as God or not, this guy could bring it.

And that is what the New Church celebrates.  We shouldn’t celebrate the “small boxes” and see them as God’s work for this church.

Do we know then, maybe it is time?  Maybe time to raise our hand?  That is the beauty I think of church in the future.   For this amazing group of parishioners at NewChurch LIVE, just look at the Women’s Ministry, Care Ministry, Strength, Breathing Room Foundation, PTSD Support, Retreat to the Catskills, Community Service etc…..  Those are all running because someone, a person, simply said, “Maybe it is time.”  And then they raised their hand.

The 19th of June

Monday, June 18th, 2012

The 19th day of June is a yearly celebration in traditional New Church congregations. What is it?

As a day, its roots go back to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s notation that on that date, in 1770, a spiritual event occurred – one with great spiritual symbolism.  On that date, Swedenborg held that the 12 disciples of the New Testament regathered to again proclaim the message that the Lord God Savior Jesus Christ reigns.  The message they had lived on this earth was again claimed but this time in heaven.

Just hold the core of that statement for a moment.  What it means is that the New Church proclaims that Christ is alive and active in the world, and ours is to celebrate this living reality.   Was Swedenborg really given to see those things?  That is for the individual to decide but just “test drive” the message for the moment.

What the message means is that the anticipated “Second Coming of Christ” has occurred through the understanding of the real heart and soul of the bible – a testimony centered on love.  This what Swedenborg wrote of.  That Second Coming, is not, from a New Church perspective, just “good news” (Gospel) for Christians but for all faiths given the strong teachings in this church that any form of faith, if lived sincerely, draws one to heaven. The New Church then, in a sense, is just one of many facets of this “Second Coming”, an event far more about the gift of spiritual freedom than of dogmatic pietism squashed into an assembly of “The Elect.”  Saying “Christ reigns” from a New Church angle is like saying “All are blessed.”

And that salvation entails taking on the work as individuals and institutions of continual self-critique and self-renewal, aka “resurrection.”  Paradoxically, this in turn only works as we do the work of faith – the not to do list and the to do list.   Individuals and institutions, including churches themselves, can become self-centered.  Faith is about moving beyond those imprisoning constructs and moving towards agape forms of love – agape as in “self-sacrificing.”   We do that through the rigorous honesty of self-critique and the loving service foundational to self-renewal.

I certainly have witnessed people living this “Second Coming” including many who would not define themselves as “Christian” or “New Church” in the tradition sense.  The sign of the Second Coming really are changes in our own hearts – not “end times” or the ceasing of history.  That breaking open of the world anew is an individual endeavor true but one we can support and celebrate as a Church.  The 19th of June is good time to celebrate it!

You Are Not Special

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

In a recent article by David Brooks he spoke of the “Good Person Syndrome.”  This ‘syndrome’ stems from our common cultural assumption that we are all good people and that our flaws are aberrations occuring at the edges.   What that assumption creates is a culture unable to engage in spiritual work of much depth.  It may likewise explain why some of the most spiritual people one will meet are those who have traveled the 12 Step path out of addiction.  An addict appears to be advantaged through the knowledge that the problem is them – it is their ego, their self centeredness, their selfishness that is most in need of addressing.

What if, as adults, we started with the same set of assumptions?  What if we were clear on the idea that “I am selfish?”  That is actually not bad news but a critical portal to growth.  From there – no more need to pretend or dress it up.  From there, we can exercise rigorous honesty and humility.    Held as I think God would have us hold it, it is freeing not damming because it leaves us with options vs. leaving us in a numb sleep where everything is narcotized with the hypnotic words that everything is “fine.”   We can then truly pray to become a vehicle of God’s life-giving will.

And in praying for God’s will, our true selves, created in His image and likeness, comes alive!  We can learn more deeply that we are not special but that in that “not specialness” lies heaven because in that place lies self-LESS service and connection and peace.  “Heavenly peace enters in when the desires that spring from self–love and love of the world are removed.”  (Secrets of Heaven, 5662).  A pretty good place to be.


Thursday, June 7th, 2012

A blessing it has been to listen to conversation around women’s roles and their connection to ministry.  Such conversation is one part of a larger picture – a picture of creating churches/ synagogues/ mosques/ worlds inclusive of all voices.

Much of that sounds admittedly soft headed.  But it is not.  Conversation takes courage for all involved.

A popular online podcast, defending “THE true Christian faith” lists its mission statement as, “… an online radio station that is free from the scurvy plagues of pop-psychology, goofy fads, self-help, pietism, purpose-drivenism, the prosperity heresy, contemplative mysticism, seeker-sensitivism, liberalism, relevantism, Emergent nonsense, and the sissy girly Oprah-fied religiosity that is being passed off as “Biblical Christianity.”” That brand of fundamentalism deifies a certain rigidity that is at best hard to move forward in the face of.  At its worse, it is downright scary.   All religious institutions I am aware of evidence in a given number of their adherents a tight draw to that very form of calcified faith, a faith that loudly proclaims (a) there is one and only one true way, (b) it is best exampled by those who follow that way to the letter and (c) it is under attack by those with whom the edges are more soft. The list of those who are “in” then becomes very short.  The list of those who are “out” grows ever longer.

In face of such opposition, it is easy to beat a hasty retreat, leaving to such people the Christian high ground.  Hence the need for courage.  I don’t believe we need ever beat a hasty retreat.  Christ’s model was dramatically clear.  It was a holding firm but not holding firm in the form of reflexive defensiveness of “THE Christian Faith” but a holding firm in love – a moving into the Christian life.

Look none of that is easy and if one thinks it is, you probably are not pushing your faith far enough – really allowing God in.    The interaction of faith and life should be challenging and transformative.  None of that occurs in arenas of smug rightness – “rightness” from liberals or conservatives.  It only occurs when we dare to allow ourselves to sink into the arms of a loving God … and MOVE.    Then we stop building bomb shelters and start speaking to new worlds.