Archive for March, 2015

A Middle Space In Building Churches That Is Almost Impossible To Speak Of

Friday, March 20th, 2015

There is a middle space in churches that is almost impossible to speak of.  Why an impossibility?  Because in speaking both sides, right and left, will find cause for offense.  And that is both the genius and the dizzying riddle of Christianity.  A third way constantly calling us out of our misaligned binary bent to sort life into this “box” or that “box” and calling into surrender deeply down into love. That surrendered spaces lies between two poles.

Pole #1:

One pole holds all things relative.  A Gnosticism of sorts.  Where every individual is captain and commander, each a final arbitrator of all truth. As Pope Francis phrased it, “…a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience to console and enlighten but ultimately keeps us imprisoned by our own thoughts and feelings.”

I read recently read a review of a book written by a woman unhappy in her marriage.  Her quest for fulfillment became sexual experimentation in all its forms outside of her marriage.  The reviewer, in her closing comment, made a salient point … where do we cross over from “finding ourselves” to increasingly damaging forms “self absorption”?  A good question that we should all in turn answer.

Easy to think of the author’s quest as just her quest.  And in a sense it is.  We muddy waters quickly when we seek to legislate private sexual morality.  However hard to imagine that life as healthy.  Hard to imagine concepts of “family” or “commitment” or “fidelity” or “common good” alive within that particular lifestyle choice.

Pole #2:

And the other pole is, to quote Pope Francis again, “a supposed soundness of doctrine [that] leads to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism whereby instead of evangelizing one analyzes and classifies others … exhausts energy in inspecting and verifying.”

This position … clearly intent on “inspecting and verifying.”  Here we fall in love with church ins-and-outs, not God.  There are refreshing few in formal church circles with whom true dialog is possible.  Just dialog.  Many more are interested in defending their view of Christianity.  Conversion.  Argumentation.  As Seth Godin phrased it … “The narcissism of small differences” … where we pull up differences instead of celebrating common themes.

The Middle Space:

Swedenborgian theology clearly speaks to a third way, as does all enlightened faith, all parts of the church universal.  That third way …. a deft centering on key concepts and teachings – compass points as it were.  A clear call to live them out into the world.  And a deep surrender to the “self-evidencing reason of love.”

And what would that theology offer to the author noted above?  That there is a joy, and a freedom, and a liberation.  A place for one’s soul.  A shining place of deep abiding peace. Heaven. Beyond our worries and concerns and compulsions.  One where our true selves come to life once we open to centering our lives on the better angles of our nature.  A place where God seeks to be as we are opened to the overwhelming miracle of that Presence.

Same facts, different experience. On purpose.

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Powerful concept shared by Seth Godin, words guided directly to our freedom of choice…

Same facts, different experience. On purpose.

As a pastor, the overwhelming prayers I am asked to join do not focus on health, or jobs, or even necessarily relationships.  While people ask frequently for these types of joined prayers, the prayer that comes up, repeatedly, is a prayer for peace.

Prayers for peace exhibit a deep knowledge I believe. They seem to acknowledge that there is little in life we truly control.  And, paradoxically there is much in life we truly control.  Maybe this … we control little in the way of events.  We control much in the way of our perspective on those events.

And when we work hard at the humble task of seeing, however dimly, with God’s eyes, eyes more like a child than our own, often … same facts, different experience, on purpose.

 

The Holy and the Ordinary

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

With the Easter season starting, I struggle with how to capture its brilliance for those just starting to touch Christianity.   I have heard people say that the miracle is Christ’s resurrection from the dead… that that is the point.  Maybe so.  Others speak of themes more transcendent, more theological … the very saving of mankind.  Maybe so.

Not that these perspectives are without merit.  They are.  They contain great, overarching truth.  But the original 12 disciples did not choose to give their lives to follow Christ because of them.  These events undoubtedly reinforced their call but Easter followed their decision to give their lives in service to the world Christ spoke to.

So how to speak to it all in ways that we can see, really see the miracle?

The miracle for me pulls back to this thread.  At Christmas, we hear of “Immanuel, “God with us.”  At Easter we see “Immanuel”, “God with us.”  A God with us in celebration, gathered around a Passover table, gently washing the disciples feet as a sign of how we are to live and lead.  A God with us in fear and devastating loss, so clearly offering a final judgment on mankind with words beyond what we could ever utter, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”  A God with us in resurrection, in life born anew with the simple call to “Rejoice.”

Somewhere, “God with us”, calls to this.. that Christ is the marriage of the Divine and the Human.  God with skin on.  The Holy and the Ordinary.  A Humanity at its God-intended best.   A model worthy of following in our own broken ways.  God with us.