Posts Tagged ‘faith’

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.

The Nature of Failure and Ministry

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Much is being written today on the nature of failure and ministry.

One author, after attending a church growth seminar, noted how the presentations were “flawless and the drive home crappy” because the polished and glitzy nature of those very presentations left him feeling guilty, insecure, and an utter failure.

Through bruising loss and set back upon set back, this pastor came to see that the goal should not be “success” but “faithfulness” – faithfulness to the mission regardless of outcome.  What occurred in turn for him was a rather profound transformation where the dominoes of (a) failure followed by rejection followed by shame were replaced with (b) failure that led to yielding that led to acceptance that led to an honoring.

Pastoring, in the end, at its best, is about helping us all to value the right things, to heed and hear God’s voice, to do the work God has given us to do.  First things first.  Remembering why.  Why we are here – a loving faithfulness to God and other. Calling us to faithfully do this thing called “church.”



Living Patiently in a Construction Zone

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

We give our hearts, often, to those things that are at best clunky and rude.  We give our hearts to work, to jobs, where yes we find joy but also frustration and fear.  We give our hearts to our beloveds, where yes we find love but also disappointment, vulnerability, loss.

And our ego would have us eagerly believe the long anticipated and well earned blessing is out there, somewhere else with someone else.   Then our hearts would be truly free.  Then at last we would be truly seen.

Something seems to say that is not how it works.  That maybe the universal addiction is the addiction to our own plans.

So there must be a newness, a new way of seeing, a new way to slip beneath the waves or above the clouds – take your pick.

Maybe we are to have, what one author called, a continued “lover’s quarrel” with life.   One where the commitment remains.  Where the commitment stays.  But where that commitment allows for that thing we must push against.  Welcomes it.  A life filled with events and people – “traffic” – that does not yield to our opinions, our plans, our relentless pushing this way or that.

Maybe there, in forced patience and surrender, we find the soft ground where faith grows.

Reclaiming The Grand Narative

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Election season ended.  Data collection drives much of elections and most everything else these days.

We divide … into groups … which are then divided into sub groups … which are then divided sub-sub-groups ad infinitum.  Each gets its own “message”, slick, packaged, engineered to appeal.  What gets lost?  The Grand Narrative.  The big picture, the greater story, the common good.  We are left with this …

Instead of inner-directed leaders driven by their own beliefs, [we] become outer- directed people-pleasers driven by incomplete numbers.

That sits as a quiet threat to social fabric.  “All politics is local” … true.  But it is becoming more and more “All politics is personal.”  Hard to move beyond self-absorption in that world.

Faith.  Religion.  Church.  Spirituality.  God.  Pick the word that word that works for you but the above is a call I believe to recapture those Grand Narratives that faith clearly speaks to.  Those stories of self-sacrifice. Love. Suffering. Redemption.  The Common Good. What is actually bigger and more important than you, than me.  What lies beyond the tyranny of “preference.”

Lets not get lost in the numbers.  If there is a place to get lost, lets loose ourselves in the Story.

The Religious Practice of the New Church

Friday, June 21st, 2013

What is your religious practice?  For many of us, we employ formalized church answers … Sunday worship, prayer, alms, participation in rituals/ sacraments.  They are typical answers because there is life and grace there.  And there are other atypical answers to round out the concept of practice.   Such answers grow from the position that “a religion is valued for its goodwill and faith, not for the rituals that accompany them.”  (True Christianity, 660)

Practice as seeking value in goodwill and faith.   Goodwill meaning loving kindness.  Faith meaning trust.  So we are then to practice holding loving kindness and trust as more defining of church than ritual.

“The new church unites faith in the Lord with goodwill toward our neighbor as two things that are inseparable; this is the nature of its religious practice,” (True Christianity, 647)

Not that that practice is easy!  But that practice pulls us away from the more shallow definitions of religion-as-ritual, definitions that feed “worship wars” and endless confrontations around the “hot button” issue of the day like homosexuality.  We find it easier, I fear, to bring enraged indignation to human sexuality than we do to birth loving kindness and trust into a world so sorely in need of both.  I don’t see that as saying that choices around sexuality are unimportant.  I do see it as saying, approach those questions with loving kindness and trust.

Lost faith. Found faith.

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

There are many joyous moments as a Pastor.  One is seeing faith just starting to break into the open.  Usually that takes the form of rather qualified statements ….

  1. If I went to a church, it would be one like yours. (My thought: See you in 6 months)
  2. I don’t have much space for God but I like that. (My thought: You might not have space for God but He has it for you.)
  3. If only I had not lost my faith…. (My thought: Buckle your seat belt for a great ride!)
I think those statements actually are ways of returning to faith. But that faith is far different than what we hold faith as.  We will find Faith, but it will NOT be how we supposed it to be.
You live in an unobserved culture.  We all do.  That makes it nearly impossible to see the ways that the hidden forces of culture impact how we hold the world.  Maybe it makes it impossible to see how corrupted the concept of faith is by our cultural predispositions. For me, I often mistakenly hold faith as a “thing” that lies “out there” that I am to “achieve.” or “attain.”  Therefore as I turn faith into a commodity, it becomes both imminently losable and findable.
But what if faith was far different than an objective thing, a commodity, detached from the deepest nature of humanity?
See I wonder, and I might be wrong, if even the debate over faith, taking as it does that commodity approach, is a red herring of sorts, sending us scurrying down paths of our own mental and cultural constructions.  Christ spent no time in deep existential debate about faith and its attending proofs. The questions He did offer of salvation were stark.  Want to know what the state of faith is in your life, answer these He would say.  What do we do when we see hunger? What do we do when we see poverty?  What did we do when we see the single parent?
Maybe in life we tend to start the journey by asking the questions, making the statements alluded to at the beginning of the blog and then get, blessedly, those were never actually the questions.   Faith, as the New Church holds it, is the eye of love.  Live with courage and humility and faith there!

“Faith is truth acknowledged in the heart.”

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Emanuel Swedenborg wrote these words to get to a critical piece of Christian theology.  Faith is not, as we often treat it, a matter of intellectual consent or agreement.  It is a matter of the heart.  Truth, in the New Church, we believe should come to be known by the life within it.  (Secrets of Heaven, 1496)  That makes the marker of truth not the tight intellectual proposition the Western mind favors, but a matter of alignment with the greatest God given loves humanity can exercise.

As a matter of the heart, that turns faith away from certainty.  Likewise, it turns it towards an active stance of loving action.  As James 2 phrases it, “Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, dead…. Show your faith by what you do.”  Faith and possibility then go hand-in-hand.

Belief or Belonging?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Many people talk of a basic tension growing within Christianity in 2012. That tension may come to down to this idea – “I want to be part of a Church that stands FOR something but does not stand AGAINST other people.”  Tricky!  A ticklish issue, one Christ wrestled with.  One growing as the traditional forms of faith shift.  Much of it connects to the question – does the life of faith start with “belief” or “belonging”?

The “belief” argument goes like this.  It must all start with belief.  That is the key differentiator.  Proper belief gives rise to well lived life.  Without belief squared away churches are no more than social clubs, unanchored institutions buffeted by the waves of culture.  Christ was clear on principle.  So should we be.

The “belonging” argument follows a different track.  Christianity is about belonging to ever widening circles of community.  As those circles widen, of course they will encircle those for whom traditional belief is a challenge but who are looking for a sense of belonging in the world as well as a life of higher purpose.  Christ was comfortable with outliers. So should we.

What of the New Church?  As I understand it, it would be this.  You can have no true “belief” without first creating a senses of “belonging.”  Here is how Emanuel Swedenborg phrased it: “The knowledge of spiritual realities becomes nothing more than objects of memory when the people who are adept at them have no love for others.” (Secrets of Heaven, 1197)  Belief then is just a “dead object,” lacking any connection to great purposes of love, conscience and LIFE. Restated, hold onto belief as the sole criteria, belief becomes merely superficial ornamentation, “Belonging” can be so much more!  And have no worry for those want a challenge – the “belonging” game is many times more difficult to play than the “belief” game.  That is because you have to BE the truth, not just think it, not just speak it.



Thursday, June 7th, 2012

A blessing it has been to listen to conversation around women’s roles and their connection to ministry.  Such conversation is one part of a larger picture – a picture of creating churches/ synagogues/ mosques/ worlds inclusive of all voices.

Much of that sounds admittedly soft headed.  But it is not.  Conversation takes courage for all involved.

A popular online podcast, defending “THE true Christian faith” lists its mission statement as, “… an online radio station that is free from the scurvy plagues of pop-psychology, goofy fads, self-help, pietism, purpose-drivenism, the prosperity heresy, contemplative mysticism, seeker-sensitivism, liberalism, relevantism, Emergent nonsense, and the sissy girly Oprah-fied religiosity that is being passed off as “Biblical Christianity.”” That brand of fundamentalism deifies a certain rigidity that is at best hard to move forward in the face of.  At its worse, it is downright scary.   All religious institutions I am aware of evidence in a given number of their adherents a tight draw to that very form of calcified faith, a faith that loudly proclaims (a) there is one and only one true way, (b) it is best exampled by those who follow that way to the letter and (c) it is under attack by those with whom the edges are more soft. The list of those who are “in” then becomes very short.  The list of those who are “out” grows ever longer.

In face of such opposition, it is easy to beat a hasty retreat, leaving to such people the Christian high ground.  Hence the need for courage.  I don’t believe we need ever beat a hasty retreat.  Christ’s model was dramatically clear.  It was a holding firm but not holding firm in the form of reflexive defensiveness of “THE Christian Faith” but a holding firm in love – a moving into the Christian life.

Look none of that is easy and if one thinks it is, you probably are not pushing your faith far enough – really allowing God in.    The interaction of faith and life should be challenging and transformative.  None of that occurs in arenas of smug rightness – “rightness” from liberals or conservatives.  It only occurs when we dare to allow ourselves to sink into the arms of a loving God … and MOVE.    Then we stop building bomb shelters and start speaking to new worlds.

In Memory of Vaclev Havel

Monday, December 19th, 2011

I remember the 10th grade World Cultures student speaking to me at the window on the second floor of my Pocono Mountain Senior classroom.  His question, earnestly asked, was “Do you think the Berlin Wall will ever fall?”  Having come of age in the Cold War, such a Wall-less world seemed fanciful.  My retort – “Maybe in your life time but not in mine.”   Within 2 weeks, the wall fell.

In the coming years, I came to know more of Vaclev Havel, the eventual President of the Czech Repulic who rose to power 8 days after the Berlin Wall fell.  What so fascinated me about the man – a poet by profession – was the overt way he used faith to guide and undergird the burgeoning democracies in Eastern Europe.  He spoke to a democracy with a “soul”, a concept far removed from my American perspective, one in which yes democracy was painted with light patina of spirituality, but certainly not given a “soul.”  As such, as one commentator noted, his “moral authority was bale to stretch a weak presidency beyond what was written in the constitution.”

I remember the resonance of his words that we are  as “beings that have fallen out of Being.”  To return to Being, his call from straightforward; “The only possible place to begin is with myself . . .it is I who must begin . . . For the hope opened up in my heart by this turning toward Being has opened my eyes as well. . . . Whether all is really lost or not depends entirely on whether I am lost.”

So I will miss that presence, and that language, a language so clear on the deeper calls embedded within.