Archive for April, 2015

Unrest in Baltimore and “Us”

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Upsetting to watch the unrest in Baltimore. Hard to hold.  These events readily pit us against us.  The need for law and order.  The need for racial justice.  Are those demonstrating thugs or demonstrators?  Are the police oppressors or protectors? We line up very easily on either side of the divide, well armed with labels.

And I believe Christianity again and again calls for a third way, a place beyond simple labels, where we return to seeing each other again.  A way between the poles.  It is a way of gentleness and mercy.

My mercy will not withdraw from you, and the compact of my peace will not recede. (Isaiah 54:10)

Emanuel Swedenborg noted that this “mercy and the compact of peace are the Lord and everything he is.” (Secrets of Heaven, 666)

There is clearly, for the safety of all, a need to reclaim order in the streets of Baltimore. There is clearly a need to search candidly for truth in the death of Freddie Gray while held in police custody.  There is clearly a need for a broader conversation around why so many cities appear to be such tinderboxes.

And there is clearly a need to speak to mercy and to peace.  Without it, there is no “us.”

25 “Cues” For The Week That Will Come When You Hear “I just….”

Monday, April 20th, 2015

God speaks.  Speaks all the time.  Rarely in the form of the clouds parting and visions of light but often in quieter forms of simple conversation.  This week that means paying attention, paying attention to God’s voice in the voice of others.  It might well come in the form of a quiet request for connection, at times of joy or times of grief, with the words “I just….”

  1. I just can’t handle what is going on in my life.  I need a break.
  2. I just had a baby
  3. I’m just concerned.  I know I will miss this congregation if we move out of state
  4. I just lost my job
  5. I just want some balance in my life
  6. I just miss my child
  7. I just feel like I am done
  8. I just want to feel SOMETHING
  9. I just feel so alone
  10. I just want to be a good person, can’t do it any more, appreciate everything I have, want to find peace within myself, learn to love myself.
  11. I just can’t hold on anymore
  12. I just had a good day
  13. I just like Pizza (:-))
  14. I just want peace
  15. I just feel helpless
  16. I just need a hug
  17. I just need a break
  18. I just want to know why
  19. I just want to know how
  20. I just don’t know how to do this
  21. I just wanted to help
  22. I just need somebody to talk to
  23. I just had hip surgery
  24. I just lost my dad
  25. I just got married
Hear these words.  Pay attention to the clues.  Be the church!

Monica Lewinsky Has Something Important To Say

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Monica Lewinsky has something important to say.

We live in an era where technology and the human proclivity to simple cruelty have combined in ways overtly toxic.  And we get to choose differently.

That choice clearly carries with it spiritual overtones as we seek to find ways to love, as we seek ways to embody mercy. That bedrock level of mercy must be the “vital essence” of all truth, the vital core of all we do.  Why?  Because….

If divine truth were all there was, not a soul could be saved, since eternal truths damn everyone to hell.  Divine benevolence, which is merciful, lifts everyone from hell to heaven.  (Secrets of Heaven 1728)

So take a look at her TED Talk.

Have a conversation.  Pass it on.

Grace For The Season We Are In

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Thinking much about Peace. How do we discover, uncover, live in Peace?  I love the idea in the midst of broken lives somehow we can find “the grace of the season we are in.”  That peace is discovering grace in that season, whatever season that might be.

Weeks fill this way … moments of deep blessings.  A new baby arrives.  A couple calls about a wedding. A son texts a message of sweet connection. And weeks fill this way… moments of deep breaking.  Someone dies.  A couple calls about divorce.  A daughter texts a message of broken heart.

And if I am honest, I am addicted to one season, and one season alone. Summer.  I crave clear skies and warmth and relaxation. Away.  Away from it all.  Loving only in bounty.  And that is not the truth of human experience, your’s or mine.   Nor is it as much a gift as I would imagine.

All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It has been a very bad match for those of us who were born extremely sensitive. It is so hard and weird that we wonder if we are being punked. And it filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together. (Anne Lamott)

So the journey is to find the God given grace in the season we are in.  That I imagine is more than the silver lining.  More than the “one good thing.”  More than is the glass half full or half empty.  It is grace. In every moment.  God’s good gift.  Sweet and vulnerable.  And somehow always pointing to love.

Always Suffering. Always Winning

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Always suffering.  Always winning.  Two “always” that maybe, in some way, form a key to understanding the Christian life.

It is a life of suffering.  Hard for it not to be.  The call is – really is – to place ourselves as outliers within the broader culture. Not as warriors against common culture but, as Shane Claiborne phrased it, as “a peculiar alternative” to common culture.  ”In the world but not of the world.” That means placing ourselves away from the comfort and self-reinforcing walls we tend to erect in our pursuit of what is safe, what is secure. And placing our full and undefended lives in areas of need.

It is life that is always winning as well.  Hard for it not to be.  The call is – really is – to accept that there is bigger plan beyond ours.  And rest there.  Rest in the peace that “passes all understanding”, a peace not based on circumstances but based on a soul-level, grounded peace that simply knows.  Knows God’s presence.  Knows God’s enduring love. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:23)

Words may well fall short in describing how suffering and peace come together.  Maybe all one can say is this … they do.  And that is the holiness of the struggle.

When the Days Are Dark

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

There are some days of incredible darkness.  Many of us are both saddened and shocked by the losses in our local communities over the past week.  For those unaware, the losses are 3 deaths in less than 5 days.  While full details have not been released all are tragic in their own right.  Involving people who were not directly/ active members of our NewChurch LIVE congregation, they involved pe0ple with very close ties to many in our congregation and specifically to our sister church, the Bryn Athyn Church.

For those impacted, there is little in the way of words to offer at a time like this.  And it is important as Pastor to share some thoughts that will fall short but that are offered, however clumsily, with deep love for those struggling today.

Where is God in all of this?

Events like these are never God’s will. They run contrary to it.  And hell does gets its day on occasion where for reasons we will never fully understand anger, addiction, fear, overwhelm and run wild.  Our greatest and most terrifying gift is freedom and at times we use that freedom in ways that are incredibly damaging.

So God is not in the event per se.  Where God is is in the love, compassion, and support flowing out to all those impacted.  I firmly, to the deepest part of my soul, believe God’s heart is always the first to break.  His tears the first to flow. And our job is to join Him in “healing the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds” (Psalm 147) in our own limited yet beloved way.

So what can we do?

We can take care of each other and the impacted families.  That simple.  We can continually rededicate ourselves to the incredibly hard work of love and healing.

And as we take care of one another, consider ways of serving.  These heartbreaks are one of the universal conditions of our experience of this life.   As such, in face of calamity, it is a time to (a) draw in and (b) reach out.  That is God’s invitation and our responsibility.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours,
No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

Closing Thoughts

In facing tragedies as a Pastor, I so very deeply wish there was a “list”, a prescriptive “list” of how to move through days of incredible darkness.  There is not.  Just some thoughts that might comfort in some way.  And a constant reminder, “When you find yourself in hell, keep going.”

For many, this IS our Easter.  Our time of unimaginable loss especially for the families of the deceased.  And with grace, and patience, God’s healing will find its way to us as we find our way home.