Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Can Christianity Be Inclusive?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

This Christmas season, this question weighs heavily: “Can Christianity be inclusive?” Frankly Christianity in its many forms is largely – and often deservedly – not seen that way. Instead of inclusive, it is often viewed instead as clubbish, judgmental, set apart.

And yet this … the “good news” proclaimed in the Gospel is to be good news for “all nations.”  That remains the call.

What does it mean then to be “good news” to “all nations”?

Maybe this …. If Christianity is to be good news, it must be good news for everyone.

  1. Do our neighbors experience our churches as good news for the community where we serve?
  2. Do other nations feel a sense of relief when they think of this nation as being a largely Christian nation?
  3. Do other faith leaders in non-Christian houses of worship, as well as those with no faith, regard it as good news when they interact with their Christian neighbors?
  4. Do the poor, the suffering – widows and orphans as the Bible phrases it – experience in Christianity good news as they face a wide array of needs and challenges?
  5. If you are a Christian, do others experience “good news” when you enter a room?
And see it is not about delivering good news.  Not about a proclamation from on high. It is about being good news. A lived and largely unspoken proclamation. About living the message of a loving God who walks with all in blessings and brokenness.  A loving, presence-filled healing for us and for others.  Freed from agenda and judgment.  Willing to work.
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In other words … an inclusive Christianity. (To hear more … LINK)
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Not really getting it … and that is ok.

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

We want to get “it.”  To understand life.  To be able to possess and offer the deep insight.  The truth.

But we are flawed.

Caught in our story, shaped by culture, molded by certain prejudices, we are in the end human.

The humility right there I believe critically forms us if we choose it.

The wisdom we do possess “are outward guises, appearances, of what is true and good… but if our lives focus on what is doing what is good the Lord adjusts them toward genuine truth.” (NJHD 21)

Goodness and truth … in the end … ONE.

Our efforts … in the end … imperfect, flawed, beautiful in God’s eyes.

Thomas Merton captured it well…

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” 

How do we love God?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Loving God, at one level is incredibly esoteric. “Wu Wu” stuff as my friend would say.  How do we love something that often appears to our dim human eyes distant, disembodied, contentious even?

Emanuel Swedenborg offered this:

Loving God “does not mean loving God for the image he projects but loving the good that comes from him.  Loving the good is intending and doing it.” (Heaven and Hell, 15)

Restated, there are these good things that come from God – the good stuff – the good stuff often even in the midst of the hard stuff.  God’s love made real into the world. Seen, heard, witnessed, experienced, shared.

Our job – to love God.  Which means placing our intention behind that good stuff and DOING IT.

In ways hard to describe that aligns our best intentions with God’s loving intentions.  Or more accurately, it uncovers in our soul those loving intentions gifted from God – God’s and ours at the same time.

We can see that all over.  A recent story featured the photograph below of a group of fast food workers joining a woman in prayer who had shared with the cashier that just a few hours before she had lost her husband.   Humanity at its best.  God’s loving work among us and through us. A picture that answers in some small way, “How do we love God?”

 

 

 

Only Love Can Be Entrusted With Truth

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

“Only love can be entrusted with truth.” Fr. Richard Rohr

Early Christian history – beautiful because it fills with all the very normal human foibles and contortions.  Not a sterile pile of sanctified brethren but a pile of simple humanity.  Loved by God.  Lurching their way forward one bad choice, then one redeemed choice at a time.

So we must smile at the story in Acts 15.   The belonging police issue an edict.  ”Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved.”  (Act 15:1)  Boom.  Unequivocal.  Measurable. No doubts. So we need to smile, smile at the painfully recognizable human tendency to create forced barriers of entry – a figurative secret handshake only the “chosen” know.

Thankfully the redeeming words of those of who knew Christ won the day … “It is my judgement that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (Act 15:19)  Not sure how they found such graceful words but there you have it … a simple statement.  A simple invitation. “Lets not make this thing hard”, an echo of Christ’s words, “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Faith can become either.  Either a form of exclusion or a form of inclusion.  The former grows in places where love recedes.

The knowledge of spiritual and heavenly realities and even the mysteries of faith become nothing more than objects of memory when the people who are adept at them have no love for others. (Secrets of Heaven, 1197)

And there is a choice.  A choice to not make this thing hard … life is hard enough.  A sacrificial choice then to love.  A love that can be entrusted with the truth.

 

“I am and there is none beside me”

Friday, August 1st, 2014

“I am and there is none beside me” … a very human position, a very dangerous thought.

These words crafted a warning captured 1,000′s of years ago by the prophet Isaiah, a warning against human hubris and toxic individualism.  They speak directly to our often lived belief that the world revolves around us, solely and exclusively.

And, as a Pastor I know nothing sexy in speaking to self-sacrifice!  Read ages of Christian literature and one finds such warnings replete, open, and discussed.  Read today’s literature, and there is less than one might hope.  Simply phrased …. “Live Your Best Life Now” is only possible if we cease being jerks.  But my petty human concern? “Live MY Best Life Now” with no thought of “Our” or “We” or “Them” or “Other.”

Cravings to convictions.  We tend towards cravings.  God pulls towards convictions.  Our cravings rationalize themselves, create their own logic, pull our attentive energy away from the deeper and quieter musings of the spirit.  Convictions center us, silently and solidly, in an alternative world view.

And the difference between cravings and convictions?  Maybe hope.  Hope in cravings is only hope in a frenzied “more” that satisfies less.  Hope in convictions is a hope in the bright, grounded work of love.  Begin there.  End there.  A place where creation breaths.

 

Ridiculous

Monday, July 28th, 2014

We returned from vacation, well worn, well rested, ready.  Many thoughts …

 

The possibility to live without a lap top for a week is sweet

We tether oursleves to technology.  Much of it blessed.  Much of it obsessive and broken.  A tech “sabbath” opens a different space, a sweet reminder that most of my life, at age 49, I lived without constantly being “in touch.”  And being “out of touch” does not make one “out of touch.” It makes one rested.

There is no strategy to miniature golf

I am competitive.  My ego can’t let that one go … yet.   So yes we played miniature golf and yes I was sure I could strategize my way to victory.  Well I won – good for you ego – on a lucky hole-in-one on the 17th hole.  I promise … this was last time I will try to beat my kids at anything (until I start losing).

No sand castle can hold back the ocean

We built a sand castle.  It included pointed break waters.  Looked like an old painting of the sun, like the one in “Tangled” – spikes radiating out and all.  The boys built the spikes.  The girls built the castle.  The ocean won.

 

And with it all, with a week full, we reminded each other that God’s love is RIDICULOUS!   Deep, sweet, patient, present … all the things I am not.  But the ever gentle reminder of what could be.

 

Learning to Fall In Love With Everything

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Learning how to see. Not an easy task. And what I get more and more clear on is that God is asking us to learn to fall in love with everything, from our loved ones, to our enemies, to the present moment.

Many of you are following, no doubt, the events in the Gaza strip. The current strife was set off by the kidnapping and eventual murder of three Israeli teens. An article written while the boys were still missing recounted the stories of two moms, one Israeli and one Palestinian, each with a missing bed in their house where their teen son had been.

The empty bed and the suffering is not what connected them. Instead their religious beliefs and historical animosities filled that space with disconnection. The only connection remaining … a desire for vengeance in every widening spasms of violence. Their losses flung them apart.

So the work of love is not easy. Vengeance is many times simpler.

And that is where our role lies – for what churches could be/ should be. Not as collections of hurt but as voices for a re-imagined future where we willingly and sacrificially do the hard work of falling in love with everything.

Hidden at the bottom of a story about the violence in Gaza was a simple note. 350 Israelis going to the home of a slain Palestinian teen to stand in solidarity with his grieving family. A different connection.

 

Seventeen Definitions

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

We can list 17 definitions of love and yet fail to be loving.  Simple.  Profound.  There is the definition and there is the experience.  Which drives?  In terms of love, allowing the experience to drive the definition will serve far better than believing somehow that an intellectual mastery of the words somehow creates the experience.  As Emanuel Swedenborg noted we can’t be connected to God “…except by means of love and charity. Love is spiritual conjunction itself.”  (Heavenly Secrets 2349)

Christmas After Christmas

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

“Advent” settles around the rhythmic waiting for Christmas, the time of patience and prophecy anticipating Christ’s birth.  ”Advent-ure” … the other end of it all. And yet ‘the other end  of it all’ at times feels so depressed, so barren.  The difference between 8:00 AM Christmas morning and 2:00 PM Christmas afternoon is palpable, the inevitable let down.

Much of that letdown for me is that I mistakenly employ Christmas to welcome, consistently, the wrong kingdom.  The Christmas I welcome centers around gifts, and food, and the annual “this is the year I finally loose weight” promises that melt come February.   So Christmas then “ends.”  And God, in His gentlemanly fashion, consistently offers a different coming of the Kingdom, one more of a beginning.  This is how Emanuel Swedenborg captured that coming.

The Lord’s kingdom consists in mutual love, in which alone is peace. (Heavenly Secrets, 1038)

Contemplate those words for a minute.  The Kingdom … mutual love … in which ALONE is peace.  And I can humbly receive the gift of mutual love and peace to the degree I humbly offer the gift of mutual love and peace.    That is where the advent-ure might just begin.

What Kind of Faith Should We Avoid?

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The big question in heaven, according to New Church theology, is not what religion you were but what kind of life did you lead.  That concept challenges many of our constructs around the role of religion.  Religion is no longer a ticket but far more a tool.

That in turn means that there are elements of faith that are positive and those that are negative.  What kind of faith should we avoid?  Faith that is “devoid of caring.”  (Divine Providence, 101)

Faith devoid of caring is one of the most destructive forces in the world.  Recent events in Nairobi speak to such dangers.   A Somali terrorist group comprised of Muslim extremists stormed the Westown Mall killing dozens of innocent bystanders, a number today that stands north of 60.  In open societies, one cannot help but feel a level of powerlessness in the face of such anger and hatred that motivates a select few to terrorize many.

Easy as always to point to the problem “over there” but we need to exercise vigilance in the places in which we are “devoid of caring” and those places where we use faith to excuse that very inactivity.    There will never be enough walls, or police, or scanners to protect us from such wanton acts of violence fed by fanaticism.  What our call remains is the exercise of agape love, self-sacrificing love into the world, the fearsome love that Dostoevsky spoke of.  I am unsure if any other solution remains.  It is love that grieves for the victims and families now left with unimaginable loss.  It is a love that grieves at the complex conditions that warp minds into fanatical, homicidal rampages.  It is love that motivates us to action in ways big and small as we kick back the darkness.  And it is love that despite the inexcusable violence in the world, continues to  be just that … love.