Posts Tagged ‘Kindness’

Grounded and Inspired

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

What we offer in terms of language is a dramatic gift.  It begins with Genesis, and God speaking the world into existence.  It then moves to Christ’s words, “It is not what people put into their mouths that makes them unclean. It is what comes out of their mouths that makes them unclean.”  (Matt. 15:11)

Life giving language takes two forms, language that (a) grounds and language that (b) inspires.

Language that grounds is language …

  1. That pulls us out of worry and anxiety down into God’s love and care
  2. That reminds us of our identity, our true self
  3. That forces a life-changing accountability through it candor

Language that inspires is language …

  1. That allows us to see a brighter future than we can currently see ourselves
  2. That moves us to visualize a re-imagined future
  3. That forces us out of stuckness … the status-quo belief that life “is what it is” and will never change

In this particular church, we hold that actually we are not accompanied through life by one guardian angel, but by two.  I wonder if the job of one is to ground us and maybe the other is to inspire.  Seems that is what the best people in our lives do.

Moving Beyond Meaness

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Years ago I remember listening to the Christian activist Shaine Claiborne.  He offered that one could be completely “right” and completely “mean” at the same time – an unfortunate confluence that effectively canceled any “rightness” to be had.  Theologian Emanuel Swedenborg cited the same principle, writing in the 1700′s that “… a life of religious devotion without a life of kindness is not a spiritual life.”

A sobering fact for life for me since entering ministry has been witnessing the amount of meanness embedded in Christianity – New Church and otherwise – at this day.  Those who struggle with faith appear often far more kind and willing to engage in an open ended conversation than those who wrap themselves in the assuredness of having all answers for all things and therefore having all judgement about all things!

Faith needs to be able to move beyond that assuredness and the meanness I believe it spawns.  That does not mean embracing nihilism or relativism.  It means embracing kindness and faith in a fashion safely comfortable with the grey areas of life.

We need to look clearly for the direction God is pointing us in – the arrow in the leaves so to speak.  That arrow will ALWAYS point towards a loving kindess and the softness of heart that moves up beyond the petty meanness, rationalizations, and smugness of our outer selves.


Kindness is not what most people think of when they think of Christians

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

For Sixteen- to 29-year-olds, the five top words associated with the word “Christian” are anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too political, and boring.  Ouch!  It is an ouch because it is hard to disagree.  That is often how “Christianity” appears.  And, it is time to get back to a different version of  a loving Christianity  - to the core of Christianity.

Emanuel Swedenborg, writing in 1700′s, hits on a simple key. “You continually pray when you are living a life of kindness, although not with your mouth yet with your heart. That which you love is continually in your thoughts, even when you are unconscious of it.” (Apocalypse Explained 325)  Kindness then is a prayer.  Hatred then is not.  As Shaine Claiborn observed, mean people are often right, but when you are mean, you’re wrong.

I tire of those Christians as well as others, including atheists, who speak in ways that frankly are mean spirited believing somehow that it can be justified because they are serving a higher cause, a higher purpose.  Kindness is what opens the soul and opens us to others.  Being mean, not so much.  Meanness takes the fun out of life.

Mistakes are the Portals to Discovery

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

James Joyce penned these words. They are the words of mature faith.

Immature faith, from a New Church perspective, is faith focused on theological/ intellectual constructs divorced from loving service – charity as it were. As such, this type of faith is highly judgmental even though shallowly pious. Individuals then only notice the errors of others. “They want to examine and in fact judge everyone and crave nothing more than to find evil.” (Heavenly Secrets 1079)

Mature faith is guided by kindness. Spiritually mature people “hardly notice any evil in another but pay attention instead to everything good and true in others. When they find anything bad of false, they put a good interpretation on it. This is a characteristic of all angels.”

What does that in turn allow for? It allows for mistakes to become the portals to discovery.

How Inspirational Is That!

Friday, May 25th, 2012

This weekend marks the third anniversary of the launch of NewChurch LIVE.  And what a 3 years it has been. We launched with the all the energy and emotion that so often accompanies a new endeavor.  Since then, as is true for all of life, there have been bright days and dark.   And words fails to describe the blessedness of it all.

At times, God’s works is subtle.  Other times not so much.  The fact that we mark our third anniversary with a service honoring vets with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) seems like God at His not-so-subtle best.  When we launched NewChurch LIVE, this kind of service in some unarticulated way was where we were being led.

Several months ago, in planning our Memorial Day program,  we began the conversation with our guest speaker, Sgt. Matthew Pennington. He was pointed about the need to have support present for vets and their families as part of Memorial Day weekend if he was to speak.  In other words, the Sunday service could not just be a “speech.”  There had to be support and follow up.  Church had to be a Monday morning church.  It was wonderful fielding his questions knowing that that is exactly what you – members of this congregation – are all about.

I say this in the spirit of gratitude.  I likewise offer with a sense of imperative.  Admittedly I am more a pastor than a theologian, more drawn to counseling than academia.   However, I want to share the direction Christian New Church theology clearly points because it the direction we will continue to go.  So putting on a theologian’s hat for a minute …..

Christian New Church theology, centered on the Bible with supporting canon penned by Emanuel Swedenborg, clearly warns about worship/ church divorcing itself from the soul of service.  Such an endeavor becomes a “shell” as it were of what faith could be.  And that “hollowing out” is dangerous, not benign.  The descriptors used by Swedenborg to capture the quality of those kinds of endeavors are stark.  He writes of their lack of simple human kindness and their penchant to “examine and … judge everyone and [they] crave nothing more than to find evil, constantly bent as they are on condemning and punishing … others.”  (Secrets of Heaven, 1079)

That is one stark warning.  And it is NOT a warning about atheism but about misguided religion.  It is a warning to churches about churches who divorce faith from charity, and therefore in terms of religious “practice” focus on the external forms of worship with no thought of deeper realities or activities.

But we get to choose something different.  We get to choose to build a church with a soul – where the external forms are married to a soul of service.  From that place, a place of radical inclusion and hospitality grows, a place “guided by kindness.”  Such a church fills with souls who “hardly even notice the evil in another but pay attention instead to everything good and true in the person.  When [others] do anything bad or false they put a good interpretation on it.  This characterizes angels – a characteristic they acquire from the Lord, who bends everything bad to good.”  How inspirational is that!  It is a place from which to offer the simple call – Lets continue getting a church like that born.


The Proclamation

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

The Proclamation of Christianity is the Kingdom – here and now. It is not the church.  It is not afterlife.  It is not moralism or theological debate or sacrament. While all these have their place, they are not and never were the point.  The point was the Kingdom- not the figurative Jerusalem evacuated to space but the settling of the Kingdom onto this earth.

The legacy of the Kingdom tales through the Old Testament.  Read these words from Jeremiah 9: 23: 24.

Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches….
… he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindnessjustice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.

The conflicted heart of God holds up for our observation in words thousands of years old two conflicting triads – one ours’ and one God’s – wisdom, strength, and riches in opposition to kindness, justice, and righteousness.

The Kingdom is the Proclamation.  It is a Proclamation that finds itself more comfortable with poetry and sacrifice than with tight theological rationalizations and formulas that all too often partake of our own intellectual puffery vs. God’s call. It is wearisome to talk about.  And we all fall so ready for it – for talking about.  How many times however have we met or talked or written even and left that event – whatever that event might have been – and from that place furthered the triad of the Kingdom – kindness, justice, and righteousness?   If we are candid, the times are painfully few.  Read the lines – knowing God is not knowing about.  It is knowing kindness, justice, and righteousness.