Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

Allowing Christ To Make a Claim On Us

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

An incredibly powerful picture.  One tide breaking against another.  Look at the hands….

And why?  Why were they able to stand there – hands where they were – knowing that what they feared would happen did?

I wonder if this is why … because they understood.  Christ had made a claim on their lives. And they listened.

And it was not the claim of anger.  Not the claim of fear, of “states rights,” of historical memories tight like traps.  It was the claim of love, mutual love. One language … “the common good of all.”  Courage.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

Jesus as a Brand

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Samuel Wells wrote of lost pastors, categorizing a certain group of clergy, “…busy proving that the church can play with the big bucks in the big league, can mix it with contractors and commercial players, can hold its own in the market place of social forces, that the reason for the church’s existence is submerged in the activity and profitability of its flourishing. It’s like Pentecost without foregoing cross and resurrection. Christ hasn’t saved us from anything or to anything—merely provided a dynamic and resonant brand name..”

The last phrase sticks doesn’t it … Christ as merely a “resonant brand name.”

The spiritual journey climbs up to the mystical experience.  That mystical journey however must travel back down then into the prophetic.  Perils await on both the assent and decent.  Ascend to the wrong god, we return with little to offer.  Ascend to a right view of God but fail to allow the mystical assent to change us prophetically, on the descent, in this world, and we bring nothingness.   However … ascend to the right view, allow that view to do its sacred breaking of our petty agendas, and then live courageously into that space, into the descent, and …. “fire, fire, fire.” (Read Mirolsav Volf’s, “A Public Faith.”)

Treating Christ as a “brand” fails on both accounts.  It calls out neither the mystical nor grounds the prophetic.  All if offers is to slap a glitzy label on the shallowness we often call “life.”   And we can feel good then … without doing a damm thing.

So thank you believers and doers!


Finding A Way To Be Who God Wants Us To Be

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

The words, “The most courageous thing we can ever do is to be who God created us to be” challenge.  We spend so much time skirting around that very “trueness” of God’s intention for our lives.  The good news of course is that God’s intention is who He has already created you to be!  These words of Anne Lamott get right to it:

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?

Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.

And God is for us in that endeavor, a fact lost in many religious circles.  He not only remains steadfastly for us in that endeavor but modeled the journey himself … no small miracle… in Christ, “God as a human being.” (True Christianity 538)  More interested in our character than in our comfort, there may just be place to rest for you there.   Knowing that with mess, comes the answer. He lives it.  So can we.


Now that is Deep!

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

One of the joys of ministry is that you get to experience religious texts first hand without the normal intermediaries – aka pastors preaching.  I remember times in Seminary feeling totally – and happily I might add – befuddled on reading some piece of scripture or theology that I had never heard before.  Here is one that Christ spoke…”By your patience you will possess your souls.”  Hmm.  Now that is a change of perspective.  Scripture and theology have continued to be that blessed unfolding for years now.

This morning I read about a description of heaven by our main theologian in the New Church, Emanuel Swedenborg, who penned his inspired thoughts in the 1700′s.  In it he wrote of heaven as comprised of 3 different levels so to speak.  These levels arrange themselves in a hierarchy that has nothing to do with dominance.  Each level as it were progresses through a learning process.  That process centers on simple truism – an overarching principle – that becomes an organizing paradigm for life.

And what is that overarching principle?  It is mutual love.  ”Knowledge of and desire for goodness and truth introduce them into that emotion, and so far they want what is good, and share in universal love, they … inherit the kingdom.” (AC 1802)  Within that context of universal love, the concept of dominance, one being “better” than another, holds no sway.

Death of the Religious Instinct

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Christ never commands us to worship Him.  His command, “Follow Me.”  That is frankly a crazy truth we have long since left behind.  The implications of those first two sentences remain immense.

Imagine this.  Here is the oft-told story of the rich young men.  Having done everything right, he asks Christ, essentially, what more do I need to do.  Christ’s reply – Sell it all. Give the proceeds to the poor.  Follow me.  In churches what would our response have been?  In Catholic churches – “Do these sacraments.”  In Protestant churches – “Take this class, get baptized, read this creed.”  Among agnostics – “Do what feels right.”   Can we see how revolutionary an answer Christ’s really was, an answer that said “Get Rid Of, Give, Follow?”

So easy to neuter that message, sterilizing it into simple dogmatic pronouncements.  It is easier to battle over being right than it is to get off our behinds and follow.  The need to be right is largely the death of the religious/ spiritual instinct even though it may appear deeply “religious!”  It is our death, amen.


Bonhoeffer’s words strike right at the practical side of that “death.”  ”On the ministry of listening: The first service that one owes to others in community consists in listening to them. Just as love for God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives His Word but also lends us His ear. …Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and, in the end, there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words.”

In closing, New Church theology, for me, is a reminder to “Get Rid Of, Give, Follow.”   This church is about those roots, not approached with a spirit of righteous certitude, but with a spirit of shared love and connection. Emanuel Swedenborg saw it – was given to see it so vividly that he put down the tools of science, picked up a pen, and gave his later years to repositioning the Christian message away from the hierarchical, judgmental, “head” church so embedded in Western culture.  The movement was to an engaged church, focused on useful service of God and others, the message underlying that mission found the poetic beauty of the Word.

The highest form of worship then, in not so many words, is following Christ’s model.





“Peace must be dared”

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

In 1934, Deitrich Bonhoeffer speaking at a ecumenical conference in Fano Denmark wrote, “There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture, and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to mistrust, and this mistrust in turn brings forth war. To look for guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”

Inspirational words.  And they come from a deep, weakened space – a man who saw his beloved Germany and his beloved Church being co-opted to serve the machinations of Hitler and the Nazi state.

As we look at Bonhoeffer’s legacy in our current series “Church vs. Hate” I am reminded of how delicate and how strong the Gospel message is.  Like Christ, it does allow itself to be get “nailed to the cross”, to suffer abuse, to suffer humiliation at the hands of the lower instincts of our humanity.  And yet at the same time there is hope, a strength, and even a daring within Christ’s message that defy those very instincts that appear to destroy it.

So lets dare.