Tag Archive: church


Christ the King Sunday is celebrated this week. It is the last feast day before the new church year begins with Advent.

Here is the Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Side note: My commentary here has NOTHING to do with the mystery of salvation and our reconciliation to God in Christ or God’s love for humanity. I am examining what it means to choose to call oneself Christian.

I have been thinking lately about being a Christian. What does it is mean? Why become a Christian?  In a large part of the western narrative the primary reason folks normally become Christian is fear of hell. To say a “sinner’s prayer” and be “saved” from hell when we die. That’s it… now go tell people so they won’t go to hell either.  Is being Christian about listening to an overbearing loudmouth preacher from Arizona who has as much concern over American conservatism as he does getting folks to say the “sinner’s prayer”? Is it being offended  by coffee cups?  What sucks is this faith is often where it ends, being “saved”. What’s awesome is many times it doesn’t end there. God can be annoying in how he challenges us, right?

Early on in my journey I chose to write off most of Jesus’ words as hyperbole or unrealistic this side of heaven. Not lessons He actually wanted me/us to grow to understand and have transform us in the here and now. Is our faith something to be jettisoned (as practical in helping decide our actions as a nation or individual) if it challenges us?  Is it low on your hierarchy of needs? Maybe, that’s okay. At least be honest.

Is faith just a psychological crutch that comforts us yet never changes our thoughts , opinions and actions? I hope not but understand my atheist friends who believe so.

Why would we want to be Christian? Is it more than being about heaven/hell?

If Jesus were speaking today would he be a leader you would follow?

Would you want his ways to be sovereign?

Would we believe His ways can change this world?

Which is more important, the way of Christ or the way of our governments’ and the way of politicians? Who’s voice do you believe? Who’s wisdom?

Most of the heated discussions I get in with folks would end immediately if I heard an awareness of the cognitive dissonance of being a Christian that advocates for war, vindicates scapegoating, and the protection of what’s “ours”.  Basically, we trust in humanity and not in God.

Jesus’s words are extremely tough and I personally wrestle with them. I don’t like some of what he said  for instance stories of separating wheat/weeds good fish/bad fish at the harvest, some girls being SOL after letting their lamps burn down,Pluck your eye out or cut your hand off if it causes you to sin and so on. I definitely don’t always track with the Gospel message I am sure. My more conservative friends would say my LGBT views aren’t in line with God.    I do want to be honest about it all though. If I call Him Lord, Lord and don’t listen to how he challenges my jaded perspectives. How can I honestly say He is my Lord?  Increase my faith and understanding, Lord!  A part of my understanding of being Christian is that Christ is King,my king, I am not. Neither is Obama, Russia, ISIS, China, the U.N.

This world is a complete mess (at least in the news) Love and beauty still pervade. I pray for Christians to be honest in their questions. I pray for us to submit to the Holy Spirit convicting us. I pray we let our pride be laid aside. I pray we ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’.  I pray we let love cast out fear. I pray we live as God is actually real. I pray we see Christ The King.

 

 

I love that faith is weird and beyond pure logic.

This Sunday, the Church celebrates Pentecost. This is when God showed us another component of how the Deity relates within themselves and with us. Our Advocate, Jesus promised was being poured out upon all flesh. The disciples were anointed by this Holy Spirit and were given boldness. So much boldness they seemed drunk. The miracle that happened shortly after the Spirit came and indwelt them was the ability to communicate. A supernatural thing happened where they spoke of Jesus to a diverse crowd and all heard in their own language. That is a pretty practical miracle wouldn’t you say?

My pentecostal/charismatic brothers and sisters experience a unique version of prayer language called tongues. I do not fully understand or get it, but I honor their tradition.

So….what is this Spirit of God? I believe She ( original language use the feminine sometimes ) is the active communicator of God. The Spirit speaks to you in language you understand. Beyond conscience, more towards intuition.  She guides us into all truth!  Jesus called the Spirit, Paraclete, One who is alongside us and inside us, our Advocate!  Pointing us in the way of Jesus.

Here is the mystery I embrace; We don’t even have to be aware of what the Spirit is doing for it to be occurring. I believe the Good News is for ALL people and God will speak in a language you “get” and understand. Scripture says the Spirit intercedes with our spirit with groanings beyond words. You get that? Your sigh, your exasperated groan, the ugh, all this God is communicating with your very soul!  Your whispering intuition. God is speaking and God doesn’t yell! This communication has nothing to do with being religious unless that is a language you respond to. It can be the nudge to enjoy your kids playing or to live in the moment of a party or planting a garden and feeling the breeze.

The ancient word for spirit and wind are the same. The Spirit is the Holy Wind of God  blowing where she pleases. The Spirit does what she wants and can’t be controlled or manipulated!  Yet She doesn’t control or manipulate you! You don’t have to listen though. But what if you did?

That inner voice that IS Truth and doesn’t lie! That says quietly “you’re precious” “you got this”  “go for it” “Is this really best for you?” We often have a couple voices in our minds, the repeats of old lies and the voice of quiet assurance. Which do you choose to give weight?

What if your intuition is the Voice of God?  What if the the breeze is God kissing your cheek? What if the Spirit prays for you even if you don’t get it or even want to? What if God is Real and the myth is the fake ass world systems we live under?

One time I was outside feeling a mix of down and up. I was praying with my eyes closed. When I opened them a butterfly was resting on my foot. The Spirit in an insect.

The Spirit is mysterious. The Spirit dwells in you. The Spirit points you toward love. The Spirit is subjective experience. The Spirit speaks through intuition.  The Spirit is abounding love toward you. Embrace the mystery.

Paradox.

Holy Spirit who is here and our very breath, come fall afresh on us.

Amen

Guilty As Anyone

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”- Jesus

I’ve always loved this saying of Jesus. It is in his classic way of encouraging us to deal with our own crap before we sit on a high horse, judging another person. Jesus is a master at drawing moral equivalence. This is not something our western culture likes to examine. We have come very far at removing the logs in our own eyes, yet we still have work to do. I am afraid, at times, that my criticisms are seen as bashing the west, my culture, patriotism, Christianity, white folks, Republicans, conservatism, capitalism, etc. and that I don’t see the evil in the world such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Putin, Chinese authoritarianism, dictatorships, etc. What my criticisms are aimed at are the “tribe” in which I was born and belong as well as myself personally.

What if we truly focused on healing and wholeness first within ourselves, our families, our churches, our culture, our politics, our own systems before we judge the “other”? This isn’t very sexy and definitely doesn’t allow us to look down on the rest of the world.  I recognize that the world is systemically evil but what is sad is the inability to see it and thus make changes. In my tradition there is a Deceiver and his power is in lies and wickedness (root wicker= twisted truth). We often see evil as good.

When we attempt to judge self-righteously the “other”, we fall into exactly what Jesus is saying. Hypocrites without true standing and the only way of “peace” is through domination, power and the threat of violence. Could there be a better, more excellent way?

My friends, please remember my criticisms are also directed at myself. I am as complicit in the evil systems of this world as anyone. May we all humbly see the logs that rest in our own eyes and gently do the surgery to have them removed together.

Christmastime Is Here

Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is thrust upon us once again. I really love this time of the year. Our society shifts a bit towards being other focused.  Lights are beginning to be put and children are giggling over the possibility of what Santa will bring. Commercials are in full force,  I am still waiting to meet someone who actually does the Lexus in the driveway with a bow on it. We’re Americans so we’re over the top, it’s what we do. The ever-present fake culture war pundits are gearing up to make sure folks can say “Merry Christmas”  and the secular minded are just kinda annoyed we acknowledge the birth of Jesus. Families get together,  therapist appointments are made, we gain a few pounds and life moves along.

We have been blessed lately to have found a new church community at St.Thomas Episcopal Church in Overland Park, KS. It is a inter-generational community that is such a modern paradox, I love it.  There is a deep connection to the past at church. For most of our adult life we have attended the mega-church style and made many friends along the way.  It was a connection for years with community, coffee, bar style worship music, and relevant sermons.

St.Thomas is a bit different. The style of worship is the same as it has been for thousands of years.  It is quiet, ritualistic, reverent, liturgical, hymns (that few know the tune :)) from a hymnal are sung, the Eucharist is shared openly, scripture is read and a short sermon is given in line with the readings and season. The church follows the ancient church calendar so the readings (comforting and challenging) and theme are already set.  We sit, kneel, stand, and identify with the Trinity in the sign of the cross. Think open, inclusive, catholic. One could argue that this is not relevant to the modern mind and heart but I would disagree. There is something refreshing about church not selling anything, the focus being God and not us.

Anyway, I am super stoked for the season of Advent. It begins this Sunday. It is the beginning of the church calendar and lasts the four weeks up to Christmas. Advent is the season of waiting and patience. Oh, joy. I am a modern American and waiting is not something I am accustomed to and frankly makes me uncomfortable.  All things that can be “fixed” should be and do it now! My humanity wants a magic wand more often than a God who enters creation as a helpless baby. Nevertheless, waiting is a part of the journey.  I think this is more of an active waiting with a consummation that is known in the heart.  Like the alcoholic waits for the liquor store to open yet knows it will.  Our waiting full of hope.

May you find the time to disconnect from our matrix a bit this season full of pregnant hope and connect with the larger story you are already a part of.  Merry Christmas!

We have all heard those wise words of Jesus ” Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1 or the good old King James version ” Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  I have been struck by the wisdom of these words in a different way recently. It may have always been clear to you but to me it is new.  So bear with me a bit.

When I was around 21 I “rededicated” myself to Jesus and became a bit of a conservative, evangelical zealot. During this time I always drew a distinction between judging and condemning.  To judge; was to define something as wrong. To condemn; was to suggest punishment was needed (as in hell).  It is true that these terms can be synonymous. Seeing Jesus’ words more as an admonishment not to condemn, I felt quite justified judging the heck out of everything for several years. All the normal ones; Clinton, Disney, LGBT, liberals, the media, Democrats, folks from the coasts, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, Catholics, Buddhists, criminals, and on and on. I felt completely okay doing this because in my mind I wasn’t condemning them. That was God’s job.  This was the camp I was in and bought it hook, line and sinker.

Thankfully, God is in the heart softening business!!!!

As I think back on my worldview in those days I only saw Jesus’ words in terms of condemning to hell. I would’ve clearly stated God’s grace was sufficient enough to “save” all those I was judging but “wrong is wrong”, right?!? I wasn’t judged anymore because I was under grace so it was my job to define what is wrong.   Huh?!?!

What I never realized was that Jesus’ words are simple facts about interpersonal relationships. Once we start judging or condemning we invite the exact same treatment and it is a vicious cycle. This is why (I believe) the Church has lost credibility. We (Christians) judge and condemn and so the world judges and condemns the Church.

Judgment implies perfect knowledge which by nature is exceedingly arrogant. I am not talking about crimes here such as; murder, abuse or rape. I am talking about assuming we know better than someone else or everyone else about anything or everything. It is the tyranny of opinion. All opinions are valid and should be heard even if we have no actual study in the subject. The need to be “right” over being effective. Therefore we become exceedingly opinionated and judgmental and completely miss the point of the Gospel.  Mother Theresa said ” When you judge, it is impossible to love.”

I am not judging or condemning where I came from. I am thankful for the journey. I am thankful it IS a journey. However, if this causes a person to be uncomfortable I make no apologies. The words and actions of Jesus are a judgment on the ways of the world, of every political system, of every religion (definitely Christianity) or culture. He always makes me uncomfortable when I think I know what’s up! Our call is love. Plain and simple. To love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

Next time you are tempted to judge, remember it bounces right back!

We were singing a song that said “to know and follow hard after you” in it. The song gave me a funny feeling and image of God playing keep away with us,  but he is the one keeping away. So we chase him. Then I had the image of the father in the story of the two sons (prodigal son,Luke 15) running and falling on his son in a big bear hug. That is when I caught the image of what I believe this whole Christian side of the Trinitarian journey is; we are following after the one who is chasing after us and we get caught up in this great dance of Father, Son, Spirit, ourselves and whoever else is hearing the music. Also, we get to help tune the ears of those around us to the music that has always been playing.

I am learning to grasp the both/and side of my journey rather than either/or. In the past I would get grouchy because of the “to know and follow hard after you” part of the song because my narrow yet inclusive view had all the emphasis on what God is doing, as if there is no value in following him. Following the One who is embracing you allows you to have confidence in this journey and  also time to relax and simply enjoy being who you are. It also allows for growth and not simply coasting. I love that I don’t have to worry about “getting it right” but get to enjoy the music along the way.

 

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