Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Bringing Caring Into The World

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Our role, largely, is as conduits, bringing caring into the world.  That role entails a journey to the margins where need exists.  AND in journeying to those margins,  creating a new center there.

So the journey of caring is not a journey out to the margins and then a retreat back to the center.  It is instead a pilgrimage.  A journey of discovery.  A journey to a new home.  That I believe is largely the lived message of Christianity.

And Emanuel Swedenborg was emphatically clear … we ignore this journey, as churches, to our own detriment.

The end of a church comes when there is no faith because there is no caring.

The journey to the margins around an axis of caring takes many forms.  But all those varied forms share a constant … caregiving.

The margins, the call to caregiving, in truth, are never far from us.

The Challenge Over Fundamentalism

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Fundamentalism can come to infect any faith.  From a recent book….

Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, defines fundamentalism “as the attempt to impose a single truth on a plural world.” In Karen Armstrong’s bestselling book, “The Battle for God,” she defines fundamentalism as “militant piety” with “no time for democracy, pluralism, religious tolerance, peacekeeping, free speech, or the separation of church and state.”

And therein lies a deep danger imbedded in fundamentalism.  That type of fundamentalist faith, that “militant piety”, can come to destroy the very thing it seeks to promote.

Faith in order to grow, paradoxically, takes faith.  It takes a faith in the form of trusting one another, a movement away from iron-clad certainty, a wiling openness to many perspectives, a faith that God speaks not in one voice but in one song with many parts. 

Our role?  To sing our part well.  And to listen.

The Quietness of Faith

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Faith is a quiet, important endeavor.

It matters in this slow, deep way of a silent companion… a choice to do important work.

Important work is easily dismissed by the audience. It involves change and risk and thought.

Popular work resonates with the people who already like what you do.

Viral work is what happens when the audience can’t stop talking about what you did.

Every once in awhile, all three things will co-exist, but odds are, you’re going to need to choose.

Seth Godin

How Faith Might Open….

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Faith, from a New Church perspective, grows in three very simple ways.

  1. We turn to God:  Important to note, either great suffering or great love will push that shift
  2. We seek to learn: In that humble place we are really open to hear.  To hear what God offers through His Word.  To hear what God offers through those around us as well as through our own experiences and perceptions.
  3. We live what we learn:  We take that “turning” and that “learning” and we practice.  The discipline of practice, of doing, of taking action.  Recipe to Meal.  Playbook to Game.  (True Christianity 347)
And that growth, that opening unfolds for all eternity. That is heaven.  That is joy.  That is true Discovery writ large.
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God forever winds the pieces together, creating a “chord” as Emanuel Swedenborg phrases it, where each “strand” of the three reinforces the whole.
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Maybe all three then become Discovery.  Maybe all three, together, give us a unique voice as our faith opens.
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And as faith opens, expect …
  1. How one holds church to open
  2. How one hears scripture to open
  3. How one prays to open
  4. How one serves to open
  5. How one holds God to open
… a beautiful Adventure continues!
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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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A Faith Amidst Changing Times

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

There are few who write so well of changing times as Walter Breuggemann. In re-reading some of his material there is an uncomfortable foreshadowing around our current challenges….

We are witnessing the demise of patterns of power and patterns of meaning that have been seen as eternal….. There is a deep loss [then] among us that gives way to deep anxiety and that produces deep resentment…. The outcome is a fearful hollowness at the center.

Striking, accurate lines.

And yet we shrink from candid talk of either this deep sense of loss or of the impending newness and the challenging arrangements it may herald.  What we tend to focus on is scapegoating, fear mongering, moralizing.  None of which I would argue will ever feel quite right given their grounding in anxious, pervasive fear and a mistaken certainty.

So churches, maybe be this … maybe speak to this…. Re-imagination.  Shared horizons.  A third way navigating forward and between anger and apathy. A cosmic statement of “being for” – FOR some thing.  For love and service and humanity. “Away from hard, dismissive indifference to compassion.”  It is the way, I believe, modeled by Christ.   Followed by many.

Finding faith amidst changing times by simply living it.

Family, Faith And An Atypical Answer

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

We often understandably conflate the terms “family” and “faith.”  And the two obviously share so much.  Family very often becomes the loving, caring seedbed as it were where faith takes root. For me that was true.  Parents who showed us not only active faith but a great deal of curiosity as well. That faith somehow mattered in the arc of life.

They did that through quieter commitments – an hour long ride to church in Pittsburgh several times a month, prayers over dinner, questions.  Quiet rhythms. That simple.  And that profound.

And Christ warns several times in the New Testament warns of identifying too closely with family.  Not the typical answer we might think.

A powerful scene.  Talking to a group, someone enters to tell Jesus his mother and brothers are waiting for him outside.  Christ responds ….

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:48-50)

In today’s world those words shock.  And only imagine how much more they would have shocked the listeners in a culture where family ties were not only a matter of affection but a matter of deep, unwavering obligation, beyond what maybe we can grasp today.

What was the point?

The point Christ calls to here is this – first things first.  And that first things must at appropriate times trump family loyalties.

Imagine it this way.  We have all witnessed and/ or participated in family systems where co-dependency reigns.  Where the family unit, as one author phrased it, becomes “an undifferentiated ego mass.”  Where loyalty simply to one another becomes the one and only over-riding virtue. Those systems, as we all well know, are suffocatingly unhealthy.

And yet to take it one level further, the conversation here is not binary.  It is easy to say if family then is no longer #1 so to speak, then God is, cleaving a very satisfactory but false split between the two.  That “splitting” is how the ego works – “If it isn’t this, it must only be that.”  ”Family” OR “faith.”

The reality is that loyalty to the higher virtues Christ spoke of do not in any way pull away from family.  Those re-prioritized values actually meaningfully and tenderly return us to our families.  But this time grounded.  This time anchored deeply into the transcendent values that bring life and promote care.  A wider, transformational loyalty.

I hope so very deeply that our five wonderful children will always take care of each other.  The best way I imagine to pass that on to them is by passing on a legacy of connection, a connection to God through loving service into the world that started at home.  A first things first that maybe holds all things.  That started some place.  But thankfully doesn’t end there.

 

 

New Times In the World of Church

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Seth Godin:

Those critical choices you made then, they were based on what you knew about the world as it was.

But now, you know more and the world is different.

So why spend so much time defending those choices?

We don’t re-decide very often, which means that most of our time is spent doing, not choosing. And if the world isn’t changing (if you’re not changing) that doing makes a lot of sense.

The pain comes from falling in love with your status quo and living in fear of making another choice, a choice that might not work.

You might have been right then, but now isn’t then, it’s now.

If the world isn’t different, no need to make a new decision.

The only question, then, “is the world different now?”

Is the world different now?  Yes.  Is the hunger for purpose, for God, for meaning, for comfort, for growth different now?  No.

So change is coming.  And so is the continuity that makes faith faith.

Amen.

A Third Way In Lost Times

Friday, June 12th, 2015

A faith born of love – the “gold standard” of the spiritual life, an amazing gift from God.

How do we know when our faith is born of love?  (From Secrets of Heaven 1072)

  1. We don’t debate religious truth but affirm it and corroborate it by/ through our life experiences
  2. We let go of what don’t get
  3. We come to understand that what we do get is extremely limited so know it is crazy to say something is untrue because we don’t grasp it

How do we know if we are coming from the opposite?  Coming from a faith divorced from love?

  1. We lack interest in anything besides arguing whether a thing is true and knowing exactly how matter stand.
These are pretty simple lists, speaking to a third way in lost times.  And it points to a task … Let go of the need to be right. Seek God in all things.  Learn to truly love and we find faith.
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