Archive for September, 2013

What Kind of Faith Should We Avoid?

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The big question in heaven, according to New Church theology, is not what religion you were but what kind of life did you lead.  That concept challenges many of our constructs around the role of religion.  Religion is no longer a ticket but far more a tool.

That in turn means that there are elements of faith that are positive and those that are negative.  What kind of faith should we avoid?  Faith that is “devoid of caring.”  (Divine Providence, 101)

Faith devoid of caring is one of the most destructive forces in the world.  Recent events in Nairobi speak to such dangers.   A Somali terrorist group comprised of Muslim extremists stormed the Westown Mall killing dozens of innocent bystanders, a number today that stands north of 60.  In open societies, one cannot help but feel a level of powerlessness in the face of such anger and hatred that motivates a select few to terrorize many.

Easy as always to point to the problem “over there” but we need to exercise vigilance in the places in which we are “devoid of caring” and those places where we use faith to excuse that very inactivity.    There will never be enough walls, or police, or scanners to protect us from such wanton acts of violence fed by fanaticism.  What our call remains is the exercise of agape love, self-sacrificing love into the world, the fearsome love that Dostoevsky spoke of.  I am unsure if any other solution remains.  It is love that grieves for the victims and families now left with unimaginable loss.  It is a love that grieves at the complex conditions that warp minds into fanatical, homicidal rampages.  It is love that motivates us to action in ways big and small as we kick back the darkness.  And it is love that despite the inexcusable violence in the world, continues to  be just that … love.

This is not America

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Dr. Janis Orlowski, the chief operating officer of MedStar Washington Hospital Center, offered the following words in the wake of the shooting in Washington.

“There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate… There’s something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings, these multiple injuries. There is something wrong, and the only thing that I can say is we have to work together to get rid of it. I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots…. [This is] a challenge to all of us…. This is not America.”

Many of us harbor that same vague disquiet.   I read of violence and mass causalities … this is not America.  I read of record economic inequality and pastor to middle age workers with diminishing hope of gainful employment … this is not America.  I read that “twerping” was the most googled terms several weeks ago … this is hopefully not America!

How do we then weave a platform for the future?  Connection.   That is the place to stand, the place to exercise our disciplined talents in its pursuit.  One author, Seth Godin, phrased it this way.  Connection … “the thoughtful, patient, mature, and modern approach wins out.  Because connection is built on trust and generosity, not on snark and short terms wins.” If as Swedenborg believed “Heaven is the only basis for our continued existence”, there is no shorter path to heaven than connection.

Churches play a huge role in that arena of self-less connection.  We not only invite all to the table, all to connect, but likewise carry an awareness of who is missing.

A Shooting in Washington

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the violent shootings yesterday in Washington DC. 13 died in yet another spasm of senseless violence.

Where do we settle with that? How do we hold it? I think the first most prayerful place rests with all the victims. The second place is to battle the numbness such events, given what appears like their increasing frequency, can engender. I certainly hope we never with a shrug dismiss these mini-cataclysms as tragic but “normal.” And the third place, maybe a place with less flash but more commitment, is to continue to stand solidly against violence in all its forms.

Violence is the one of the greatest evils we face. It draws on control, on distortion, on self-seeking power. In short, it draws on evil.

God is clear. Loving God is “not doing violence to any soul … because every soul is in the hand of the Lord” (Divine Providence 94). There is our stand.

How about them Eagles?

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

I woke this morning to numerous comments about the Eagles and Chip Kelly following their 33-27 over the Redskins.  And why not?  The new look Eagles unleashed a new look offense that left fans thrilled.  That is the lighter side.  The less light side were serious comments by people palpably nervous  about the lack of a quality safety on defense or the penchant for turnovers by the Eagles that must be urgently resolved NOW all of which of course, if unresolved, will interrupt the now inevitable march to the Super Bowl.   Hmm….

The job of faith or religion is not to be the dismissive school marm throwing cold water on that fun out there.  Faith, then, is not about creating the false dichotomy of  Chip Kelly or God.  The job of faith is to point to what matters, consistently and lovingly, not with a finger wag that scolds but in a way that calls us to a warm vision of human connectedness.   That world lived on Monday too.  A Facebook post ….

Interested in lending a hand to someone in need? One of our parishioners needs to have shoulder surgery this Friday. She lives alone and needs someone to go with her to the hospital and wait while she has surgery. She won’t know until later in the week what time her surgery will be scheduled for but predicts a morning appointment. Comment below or send me an email if you are willing to help out angela.cooper@newchurchlive.tv

What happened? People responded.   This beautiful woman will not only have a friend by her side for surgery but also several meals brought by new friends, stepping up.

So congratulations to Chip Kelly.  It looks like it will be fun a year.  And thank you to those who in quieter ways reach out for help and thank you for those who respond.  Let us “fan into flame the gift of God” in way that warms, not burns.  (2nd Tim. 1:6)

Aligned Around a Bias Towards Action

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

For many of us, the driving question is how do I make this thing grow?  That could be the question of the salesmen, the business owner, the store manager, the pastor.  It is not a question that Christ asks however.  His questions were about alignment and about healing.  Growth then spreads from the inside out.  First He says to the disciples, “Walk With Me” … then He offers ….

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  (Matt. 28:16-20)

Growth, it appears, naturally springs from a patient, well-lived alignment, a bias towards action, embedded in now.  It changes the question from “How can I make this thing grow?” to “How can I serve?”