Archive for February, 2013

Others are worthy of a love that does not go away … ever.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

One author I recently heard talked of his upcoming book, “The Most Over-rated Generation.”  In that book, he talks of his generation and younger, raised on the perpetual sunshine of constant commentary around “how great you are.” The fruit of such loose and shallow sunshine … a generation of folks more interested in talking about change than actual change.  It is again the old bugaboo – Christianity far more interested in self esteem than self surrender, more focused on image than action.

What needs reclaimed is a tenacity that is able to love for the long term.  Such a love continues when those very acts of love have become boring and tedious, a love that in its perseverance overcomes fear.  As one non-profit leader noted, this becomes “long obedience in one direction” characterized by the uncommon willingness to stick with it, tenaciously.  Willing to say, “We do not go away … ever.”

That is hard to “sell” as a Church.  Who wants to be told THAT?  Well my guess is you do!


Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Justice forms a cornerstone of Christianity.  In an era where mistakenly our focus bores in on belief and worship, we have to work at reclaiming the expanded vision of Justice, a vision that calls us to draw compassionately alongside of suffering. For those unfamiliar with Christ’s words, allow these words from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25, to sink in …

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

These words are why, in this denomination, we see in Christ the embodiment of Justice.  He not only spoke of it.  He lived it incarnationally.  And that is our call as well.  It is one, if we choose to follow, that will not be easy because the paradigm becomes so shockingly altered. As Fr. Richard Rohr phrases it….

The only way that we become convinced of our own sense of power, dignity, and the power of God is by actually doing it—by crossing a line, a line that has a certain degree of nonsensicalness and unprovability to it—and that’s why we call it faith. In the crossing of that line, and acting in a new way, then and only then can we really believe what we say we believe in the first place. Lifestyle issues, like non-consumer living, non-violent actions, community building, service, and volunteerism, ask much more of us than mere belief systems ever do.

When Churches Fail. When Churches Succeed.

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Easy to believe churches fail when they move from the scripture.  Yet the bigger danger is when they move from love.  Failure then comes not from an adherence to scripted language but from a more deadly missional failure to love in the fierce way God calls us to love.

The dawn of a church starts with a deep commitment to loving God and others.  Beautiful to read of the original Christians where references to the other settled in the language of “sister” and “brother” – a familial gathering.   Such an approach sits within soft edges.  As New Church theology phrases it, a schism is not a schism then, a heresy not a heresy, but a place in which differences of opinion are lovingly held as “doctrines tailored to personal belief.”  (Heavenly Secrets 1834)  We do well to welcome those differences within the context of God, His Word, eternal life, and divine order.

As love fails, so does that ability to hear within that familial context, a context that allows for flexibility and individuality within the group, within the missional construct of agape [self sacrificing] love coming central to our lives and our communities.  We atrophy.  We stiffen and bristle,  We erect ever higher walls of literal correctness.  And love dies.  And so does scripture.


That’s the miracle love lets you say: I am chosen.

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Honoring relationship, honoring the words, “You took your life – and took a chance on me. You took your one whole, wild life and took your chance on me. That’s the miracle that rents the sky, that explodes a heart – that you chose me. That’s the miracle love lets you say: I am chosen.”  (Anne Voscamp)

There is nothing easy about love.  We often forfeit the real in pursuit of mirage, the imitation of love that may taste sweet but lasts a day.  Sitting in the awe of having chosen and having been chosen, that is where the spirit, and the soul, and the love, and the relationship spill together.  Where God forms a mirror of His love, His choice, for us with our love, our choice for our beloved. In decision to create and to love, a symmetry.

That is a blessed place to hold this Valentines Day. Not in the place of the ever-present disappointments of two egos unable to merge but in the place of two angels, having chosen.

is This Is A Good Thing Or A Bad Thing?

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

I host a morbid fascination with “technology.”  I love many parts of it.  It allows me to stay in constant touch with my family and with those I serve.  It allows me to share ideas readily and with an exceptionally wide audience.  And there is shadow side.

Leaving home without my phone feels eerily like the old childhood nightmares of going to school in your underwear.  A constant tension in our house is pulling kids away from computer screens.  The art of relationship is hardly fed by the frenzy of social media.  And while professionally it allows me to better serve it likewise creates little in the way of sacred silence in which God speaks with a whisper not a bang.

Seth Godin offers some interesting observations:

A long time ago, real estate developers figured out that one way to save a lot of money was to put a mirror in the lobby next to the elevator banks. People would happily look at themselves in the mirror while patiently waiting for the elevator… meaning that the developers could get by with one fewer (expensive) elevator.

If we want to, we can turn social media (and our day) into a giant mirror. “I wonder what they think of me?” “I wonder what their reaction was to what we just shipped?” “I wonder if they’ve figured out I’m a fraud?” We hide this mirror gazing under the guise of customer research, but particularly for soloists, artists and anyone who puts her name on her work, what an opportunity to waste time and energy checking out what the online world tells us about our role in the universe.

On the other hand, social networks now give us a better opportunity than ever to find out how other people are doing. “I wonder if Trish is happy?” “I hope that those protesters have enough blankets.” “Are our children learning?”

It’s human nature to care how the tribe (and strangers) think about us. It’s more important, though, to wonder how they feel about themselves.

So is this potty training seat a good thing or bad thing?  I don’t know!

A Canopy of Hope

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

The big news in the financial sector last week centered on the Federal Government’s civil suit against Standard and Poors for issuing “…the faulty ratings of mortgage bonds leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.”  To simplify it, S and P used a number of models to gauge risk when rating mortgage backed investments. When their model did not yield a positive enough score, they switched models to secure a better rating, similar to a teacher grading on a curve for certain students the teacher wanted to “pass” and not for others.  That type of action is a yet another “hit” to the trustworthiness upon which our culture depends.  And as trustworthiness goes, cynicism spreads.

That is not a world we should choose to live in.

In listening to Vincent Harding, a contemporary of Martin Luther King, he spoke of  the need to re-establish “a canopy of hope.”  I LOVE that phrase.  What else should a church, synagogue or temple do but seek to add to the blessed fabric of that canopy?

Easy not to do it.  Easy to believe we are best served by holding ourselves apart from, separate from, superior to other faiths. But that is not God’s call.  It makes events like the sanctioning of Rev. Rob Morris for participating in an interfaith service to support families of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, appear small and petty, an indictment of Christianity vs. a witness to it.

A mighty witness to faith is embracing that very canopy of hope.  All of us.

An Alternative Orthodoxy

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

An alternative orthodoxy fashions a deep connection between faith and life. It is about a faith far more concerned with a sincere living of the Christian experience than being “right” in the intellectual sense. Such an orientation rarely takes umbrage over different theological perspectives but instead finds the necessary disquiet in the suffering of life and seeks to draw alongside of that very suffering.

We are then to mirror Christ’s journey in our small human way, a journey He did not seek in order to “become greatest in heaven … or to become the least.”  What then was Christ’s goal?  ”All He wanted was for everyone to make something of themselves and be saved.”  (Heavenly Secrets 1820) The focus then was “other.”

That is why is it is so important to consistently refocus … refocus … refocus on service towards others.  It is interesting to note how a good theological brouhaha will quickly draw 100′s.  A call to serve will draw, well, something we can count on two hands.  It is not that ideas are unimportant. They are opening of the Way.  Words shapes worlds. But those words, as is often my experience, sit untethered to the very ground they are to give form to, masquerading as the work of Christianity.

Groups like Inter-faith Housing Alliance remind me of what actually it is to be a Christian.

What does it mean to be “Born Again?”

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

What does the term “Born Again” mean in the New Church?

First, it does not connote a particular denomination or political perspective. What it does connote is God’s Life being born anew in us, a Life that is actually ever-present.  We however get to decide the degree to which that Life manifests itself in this world.

“People who are born from the Lord, that is, who are reborn, receive the Lord’s life.  [That] life is Divine Love, or love for the whole human race, and the desire to save the whole human race and all its member’s forever.”  (Heavenly Secrets, #1803)

We then come to see faith differently, moving away from “Churchianity” to the wider embrace of “Christianity” -  ”a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, and loving.”

Now that is Deep!

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

One of the joys of ministry is that you get to experience religious texts first hand without the normal intermediaries – aka pastors preaching.  I remember times in Seminary feeling totally – and happily I might add – befuddled on reading some piece of scripture or theology that I had never heard before.  Here is one that Christ spoke…”By your patience you will possess your souls.”  Hmm.  Now that is a change of perspective.  Scripture and theology have continued to be that blessed unfolding for years now.

This morning I read about a description of heaven by our main theologian in the New Church, Emanuel Swedenborg, who penned his inspired thoughts in the 1700′s.  In it he wrote of heaven as comprised of 3 different levels so to speak.  These levels arrange themselves in a hierarchy that has nothing to do with dominance.  Each level as it were progresses through a learning process.  That process centers on simple truism – an overarching principle – that becomes an organizing paradigm for life.

And what is that overarching principle?  It is mutual love.  ”Knowledge of and desire for goodness and truth introduce them into that emotion, and so far they want what is good, and share in universal love, they … inherit the kingdom.” (AC 1802)  Within that context of universal love, the concept of dominance, one being “better” than another, holds no sway.