Archive for January, 2017

David Brooks on Why He Has Become More Religiously Inclined

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

I’ve become much more religiously inclined. And that’s, I think, for three things.

First, for an awareness of one’s moral mediocrity. For example, you meet these people who radiate an inner light. And I was in Frederick, Maryland, I don’t know how many years ago, and I ran into these ladies. There were probably 30 of them, aged 50 to 80, who teach immigrants English and then how to read it. And I walk into the room, and they just radiate patience and goodness, Dorothy Day directness, just that calmness. They didn’t know me from Adam, but they made me feel funnier and smarter and special, and they just had that — they radiated that light. I remember thinking, “I’ve achieved way more career success than I ever thought I would, but I don’t have that.”

Second, would be the experience of grace. And the story I tell about that — these are just exemplar stories, but I have a million of them. I was driving home from the NewsHour about 10 years ago, and I pull into my driveway, and it’s 7:30 at night, but it’s summer, so it’s still light out. My kids, who are then 12, 9, and 4, were in the backyard kicking a supermarket ball up in the air. And they were running across the yard, chasing down this ball, tumbling all over each other, laughing, giggling, sort of shouting with joy. And I pull up into the driveway, and I see into the backyard. I get confronted with this tableau of perfect family happiness…..

…and so I just sit there staring at it through the windshield. And it’s one of those moments where reality sort of spills outside its boundaries, and time and life are sort of suspended, and you become aware of a happiness that you don’t deserve, which is grace. When that happens, your soul swells up a little, and you want to be worthy of that happiness. And it’s just a moment when the soul is swelling.

And then lately — one experience is love, deep love. And the nice thing — Christian Wiman, who is a poet I’ve quoted in your presence before says, “Love is always on the move. It’s never content to just love one thing.” So you want to love the person, you want to love — but then your flesh sort of gets opened up, exposing soft flesh below, and you realize your riches are not in yourself, and that sort of desire and even awareness of a fusion at that deep level sort of changes your view.

So when you go through these experiences, theology begins to make sense because it speaks spiritually, emotionally, and morally. So it’s not like I read it because I’m suddenly — well, it’s not an academic enterprise; it’s the way to see the world. And so it’s become an explanatory tool as much as anything else.

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What is “saving faith” in the New Church?

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Much of Christian theology concerns itself with the question of salvation.

How does the New Church hold salvation? How do we hold “saving faith”?

Saving faith is found in people whose lives are devoted to doing what is good, people who in other words are devoted to caring … [so] wherever good actions are being done from a caring heart is where the church will be found. (NJHD, 121)

Put simply, our role then … to humbly seek God’s help in pushing aside our ego, our self centeredness, our cravings, our narcissism, our materialism – no easy task.  And then to serve.

This “pushing side” and “reaching out” become then a united endeavor, each “movement” informing and shaping the other, an endeavor where deep love, in the end, wins.

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Clarity in a Divisive Time

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Important to find clarity in a divisive time.

New Church theology is fascinating in many regards. One perspective of particular interest are the warnings held by Emanuel Swedenborg about why churches fail….

“Every church begins with a focus on caring, but in the course of time turns….” (NJHD 246)

And in times that can feel so divisive, it is easy to simply turn away. To stop caring. To move to a privatized faith. And mistakenly call that privatized faith “clarity,” when the reality actually is that privatized faith can become an easy screen for complacency.

We are blessed by such a deeply caring congregation, one I believe that holds privatized faith in the right place. Complacency … not the issue today!

And yet, we all need continual reminders about the goals of caring. What, then, can a caring church contribute to?

Enter Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s concept of the “Beloved Community.”

I love preaching on this topic because it readily gives words to a “compelling why” engraved on our hearts. It is the resonance in King’s speech, “I have a Dream.” It is the heart of the Bible’s words where we see the promise and “welcome it from a distance.”

It is where we seek reconciliation, not victory.

That is an ever new kind of clarity. One as ancient as humanity. One blessed by the poetic language of MLK. And one we celebrate Sunday and Monday.

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