Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

The Holy and the Ordinary

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

With the Easter season starting, I struggle with how to capture its brilliance for those just starting to touch Christianity.   I have heard people say that the miracle is Christ’s resurrection from the dead… that that is the point.  Maybe so.  Others speak of themes more transcendent, more theological … the very saving of mankind.  Maybe so.

Not that these perspectives are without merit.  They are.  They contain great, overarching truth.  But the original 12 disciples did not choose to give their lives to follow Christ because of them.  These events undoubtedly reinforced their call but Easter followed their decision to give their lives in service to the world Christ spoke to.

So how to speak to it all in ways that we can see, really see the miracle?

The miracle for me pulls back to this thread.  At Christmas, we hear of “Immanuel, “God with us.”  At Easter we see “Immanuel”, “God with us.”  A God with us in celebration, gathered around a Passover table, gently washing the disciples feet as a sign of how we are to live and lead.  A God with us in fear and devastating loss, so clearly offering a final judgment on mankind with words beyond what we could ever utter, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”  A God with us in resurrection, in life born anew with the simple call to “Rejoice.”

Somewhere, “God with us”, calls to this.. that Christ is the marriage of the Divine and the Human.  God with skin on.  The Holy and the Ordinary.  A Humanity at its God-intended best.   A model worthy of following in our own broken ways.  God with us.

The Christian Mission in a Couple of Paragraphs

Monday, December 10th, 2012

My sister shared this blog post with me. Want to understand how radical the Christian message is?   Read this ….

Leviticus 13.45-46
Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” As long as they have the disease they remain unclean.

They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.

Matthew 8.2-3a
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

And Jesus reached out his hand and touched him.

What does “regeneration” mean?

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Dear Pastor Chuck,

I’m new to the New Church and have heard the term regeneration mentioned in a number of services.  Can you explain what that means in relation to New Church theology?

“Regeneration” means “recreation.”  We believe spiritual growth follows three steps. “Regeneration” is the third.  The first step is “repentance”, a word meaning to “change one’s mind.”  We look to look at our lives and rethink, reconsider, asking God to help us formulate a “not to do” list to get our own blocks born of selfishness out of the way as well as a “to do” list that helps us to reach out to others.

Then Step Two kicks in – reformation.  Reformation means to “restructure.”  If we stay in our head, we will miss it.  We need to bring head, heart, and hands together.  We do that as we re-form our lives, a.k.a. reformation.  The alcoholic needs to stop going to bars.  The porn addict needs to stop looking at porn. The angry parent needs to stop getting mad. Of course we will fail often in this endeavor.  Our job is to keep picking ourselves up, asking God’s help, and moving on.  This where New Church influenced like 12 step programs can be particularly helpful.

And then we arrive at the final step – “Regeneration.”  This is where God re-creates us, giving us a new heart of “flesh” instead of “stone” as the Old Testament puts it. We awake to the wonder of life.  We awake to love and service in a new way.  We know heaven, a knowledge we can have in this life.

Blessings of a skinned knee? Yea right.

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

We live in a world in which I firmly believe one of the key attributes will be resiliency – the ability to bounce back, to morph and change – while at the same time remaining centered and grounded.  The world simply put increasingly demands flexibility.  That means skinned knees can actually be good.

Working on flexibility is not easy.  I know I spend inordinate amounts of time scripting not only my future but the future of my loved one, seeking to give them safety, security, and a future of “knowns.”  And, I will fail at that endeavor.  They can have those things but not as I define them. They can have them in God. What I can help them with is resiliency.

Lori Gottlieb wrote a brilliant article in “The Atlantic” that spoke to this very point.  The title: “How to Land Your Kids In Therapy.”  (Article)  I would urge to read it even if you don’t have kids.

This Sunday we are looking at the above, juxtaposing Jesus’ clear teachings on the (a) need to take care of family and (b) not take care of family too much.  In other words, “family” is a clear priority in the Bible, and equally clear is the call to reject it as the priority of life. What is that all about?  Could He be telling us something about resiliency, about really helping our kids and loved ones, about safety, security, and what a future of “knowns” really is?

I suspect that family relations are strengthened even more when held in the right way.

Experiencing Intense Gratitude

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Given the events of the past two weeks, I am struck by what we are to each other.  The image that comes to mind is of a summer time rain – the warm kind of rain, the kind that actually is joyous to get “caught” in.

Drops of gratitude, grace, kindness.  They fall on our lives and at times, actually pour down, all over, to be felt, experienced, danced in.  (Scary thought!)  I like to think that that experience is always available but I know pain keeps the drops at bay.  The noise of such pain can at times be so great it understandably eclipses much of Life.

Brian McLaren wrote of how we move towards a time of radical simplicity, a time when we come to discover the oneness of God not as a singular entity but as a relational oneness, the oneness of trees to a forest, the oneness of a drop to the rain, a oneness of experiencing what we are to each other, what God is to us, what God is through us, what God is through others.   It is Jesus’ prayer of oneness in the Gospel of John.

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.  (John 17)

God’s Oneness is a Relational Oneness.

The Need for Creeds

Monday, April 25th, 2011

A particularly enjoyable interview I heard once was on the “Need for Creeds.”  The author’s point was that creed’s provide a necessary container for human growth.  I imagine it being like the practicing scales in music.  We master the basics so that we can eventually improvise and create.  This article by David Brooks is in that same vein.

Creed or Chaos

It is patently easy to be dismissive of overly rigid, dogmatic theology.  And, frankly, those clergy who give themselves over to the pursuit of purity and perfection in the name of serving a rigid and dogmatic theology do a disservice to the life of faith – a clear warning given by Jesus in his dealings with the Pharisees.  Yet that does excuse the need for structure, form – for a degree of certitude by which to navigate.

Why Celebrate Easter? (Hint: Change is one thing. Transformation another.)

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Why celebrate Easter?   In a way, it is a more significant holiday than either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Why is that?

Life is filled with numerous changes.  It also fills with several transformations.  Change and transformation – different beasts.  Change is simply an altering of external circumstances – we move, we get a new job, we loose our hair.  But transformation – that is stuff of the soul.  And Easter centers on transformation.

The deepest transformation it celebrates, from a New Church perspective is the final uniting of the Divine and Human – the two brought together completely in Jesus – God and Man.  His death was the final walking of the human journey.  His resurrection – His raising of His humanity to cloth the Divine.

This kind of high theology is maybe hard to grasp.  I certainly need to ground it for myself – oh – and that’s the point.  We need to ground it for ourselves.  That is the point of Jesus walking on this Earth, facing all the temptations and challenges of the human condition, including hopelessness.   So we could have a loving and compassionate view of God – an embodied, knowable image of God that gives us a model of how to live in such a way as receive the true peace, the true joy He promises.

So get to Church this Easter.  Celebrate the transformation.  Think about your own.  Reach out to someone in the midst of one as we rejoice this Easter at the greatest of gifts – LIFE!

Like vs. Love

Friday, January 7th, 2011

It is easy, in some ways, to realize that God “loves” us.  However, that will leave God distant.  We need to go one step further.  We need to come to see that God actually likes us.

Jesus came to a point where He told the disciples “I call you friends.”  That is of no small import.  He calls us friends.  When we can invite God into that friendship, the relationship changes.  We then hold Him the way He already holds us.

I really believe much of Christianity has gone astray.  We need to be ok with that – we need not recoil but to look at it candidly.  Just as individuals have gone astray so do religious movements with rare exception.

Going astray happens, as New Church theology clearly points out, when loving kindness leaves the center and is replaced by an intellectualized faith.  We can do that as individuals or as churches.   It is not about the theology but about our use of it.

What then is the connection to “friendship” and being “liked” by God?  The connection is that we often press continually on our faith, on our image of God as more and more of a sacred Being – way, way beyond us – which of course God is and which of course He is not.   We cannot push Him so far away that all we speak of is His love as a distant knowledge and not about a very real friendship, a very real being liked.

The New Church centers on a return to true Christianity, a form we do see practiced in the world, and not just by Christians, but infrequently embraced by formal religious bodies.

So there is the celebration!  A return to Christianity – a return to the friendship of God.


Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

“Peace on earth, Goodwill toward men” – the core of the Christmas message.  Peace finds forms.  This Christmas, there is the obvious form of Peace that Christianity calls us to – peace as in an end to war, as in “beating swords into plowshares.”  This level of peace is of no small consequence and of no small responsibility.  “Peace” and “Goodwill” are connected in that regard.  By practicing one, we practice the other.  By feeding one, we feed the other.  By creating the space for one, we create space for the other.

In that regard we must be mindful of not using theology as excuse making.  Christianity, as an institution, over the ages has advocated for certain wars based on “just war theory.”  Deciding which wars are justified and which are not may well not be a topic to be addressed from pulpit.  Yet, as Christians, at the very least, we must remain uncomfortable with any war, justified or not.  When theology confirms the justification of war, we should be fearful of getting too comfortable with a bedfellow we must remain leary of.  To put it simply, Jesus was never comfortable with violence.  Neither then should we be.

None of this mitigates the great sacrifices of the military and military families.  None of this says that there are not real threats out there in the world that call us to legitimate self defense.  As a former history teacher I shudder to think of what the Nazi war machine would have done if it went un-confronted.

And I believe Christian pastors need to constantly remind all of us (including me) that if we simply start to accept war as a comfortable “status quo” we are missing a key to the Christian message.  If Jesus’ message does not unsettle us at least in this area, we arguably missed part of the Christmas message, a message of hope and comfort, but a message also that should confront us with something that maybe is just a bit more than a triumphal proclamation of “Peace on earth and Goodwill toward men.”  That proclamation may just be a command.

Winter Solstice: Faith in the Present Moment

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

God calls us to places where faith becomes possible – an important topic to speak on this winter’s solstice, the darkest day of the year.  For some, that place, that call comes at times when all else is stripped away.  For others it comes at times when the world breaks open in a limitless horizon of boundless opportunity.  I imagine for most reading this that a combination of the two probably rings true.

This morning reading of the “13th Disciple” I was struck again by the Jesus’ call to the young man and his clear rejection of it.  That rejection does not of course mean a “loss.”  The text is clear – Jesus “loved him.”  Jesus’ patient compassion is ever knocking on the door.  And the call is to leave behind so much – “sell all you have.”  So opening that door is a rather scary proposition!  Who wants to hear that as a sales call.

Remember the context though.  It is the context not of selling all of our material possessions and living in abject poverty.  It is the context of “selling” the comfort of our lives to heed a call that will lead us to a place where true faith is possible.  That will not be comfortable terrain.  But it will be terrain where we can find the true faith, faith as in living life deeply in the present moment, a faith no longer uncoupled from love.