Archive for March, 2014

Compassion and Community

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Henry Nouwen wrote ….

  1. The crisis in the lives of many caring Christians today is closely connected with the feeling of not belonging.
  2. Without a sense of being sent by a caring community, a compassionate life cannot last long and quickly degenerates into a life marked by numbness and anger.

Those lines ring so true.  For many the church is not the safe harbor from which we are sent forth to compassionately serve with love, but instead becomes a bastion of estrangement, a place of sorting, a place of degraded, privatized faith where the Word is used as a set of directions for parsing who gets to heaven and who goes to hell, and not as a story of hope, peace, reconciliation and resurrection.

The result of that estrangement?  Numbness and anger.

And yet different approaches abound, antidotes to numbness and anger, churches that move us back to a community of compassion, a matrix out of which healing and service grows.

Such churches understand faith as a flow of energy.  As an environment.  As an ecosystem.  Not as mono-culture.  Such churches – breathing –  are not without mechanics, doctrine and structure, but those three now serve.  They create, as it were, the banks of the river but they are not confused with the river.

A Chosen People … Or Not?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

In my own young and small head I grew up believing I was a privileged member of a special church, a unique dispensation… in my immature universe, a chosen people.

Many denominations, Christan and otherwise, hold to binding mental forms of uniqueness as an unspoken yet very foundational element of their existence.  We then in turn engage in practices of legitimation to prop up that special status, to both remind and comfort ourselves in our choseness over and against “them.”  Religious warfare, from Shiite vs. Sunni on down,  grows from that very ground.

The movement away from “choseness” to “with-ness” is painful.  The “with-ness” I speak of here is not a defining of self as over and against other but a redefining of self as ‘part of’, a ‘being with’, not over and against but a shoulder-to-shoulder partnering, a kinship.   Paradoxically, such a withness does not take away uniqueness but actually feeds it in the form of wondering, a beautiful wondering around the unique gifts we are called to bring to the human endeavor.

What are those unique gifts we can bring here in the New Church to the human endeavor?  For me they center around a loving God, a God deeply concerned around suffering, deeply present in the world, a God incarnated in the life of Christ.  And the joy of that uniqueness?  That it can in turn become this enlivening touch point with others engaged in the same endeavor.  Not ‘better than.’  Not ‘chosen.’  But ‘with.’   Being chosen after all is about reminding others, they are chosen too.