Friday, January 29, 2016

blesssed are the meek

it's laughable to think that Jesus would applaud the spineless, for meek is not a compliment in our culture any more than it probably was in Roman occupied Palestine. but the thought of submissiveness that often comes with the thought of meekness, spurred me to consider it as perhaps an outward sign of inward submission to God.  St Paul calls us to submit ourselves to God so that the mind of Christ becomes ours....and we know Jesus was no wimp.  I happened to pick up a book as I was tidying my office ("How much is enough" by Arthur SImon) and read this:  in blessing the meek, Jesus is lifting up not the acquisitive and well-connected, but the poor, the powerless, and those more often oppressed than successful....most of us have a hard time accepting this...because we are among the privileged.  It is hard to seize a disturbing truth when a comfortable life depends on toning it down.   Ouch.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Colossians challenge: clothe yourself with meekness

Colossians challenge week 4: clothe yourself with meekness. In what ways are humility and meekness the same and different, I wonder....two completely different words and etymologies in Greek so it's beyond me! what comes to mind is that meekness may be more behavioral and humility more attitudinal but stay tuned and let me know where your mind goes....join us in person on Tuesday at 4pm at church for shared wisdom!

today. Now

Today, now 012416
(notes only; this is an interactive conversation sermon)
Ancient story about mostly somewhere else (in Chittister’s commentary on RB)

Many of us spend a lot of time somewhere else.   Primary principle of Buddhism: be here now.  It seems to me that Jesus was always fully present to the moment.
Psalm:   when do you hear the universe speaking? Without words, the Word gets out.    Examples, 8th grader heard “Awe” in moonlight; herd of deer  “care for earth….. sharing                                                                                                            
  If you’re somewhere else you miss it….be here now, today.
Epistle: humourous image Paul uses to remind us we belong to one another and since Jesus isn’t here, we are God’s body.  Every one of us has a part to play.  But not one of us has to do it all. With our physical bodies, God’s action gets out.    what body part are you?  ….. sharing                                                                                                                  If you’re somewhere else you don’t hear God talking to you about you, rather we judge other people.   Be here, now, today
Gospel: Jesus sees himself as a fulfiller of God’s promises, and doesn’t hesitate to say so.  Do we?  Where do you see Spirit at work?  Good news shared?  Prisoners released?  Blind given sight or insight?  The oppressed freed? God’s love proclaimed?                                                                                                                                                                     If you’re somewhere else you make excuses.   Be here now.  today
If we let the Spirit have its way with us, which is simply what Jesus did, God’s promises begin to get fulfilled.   We need to let the Spirit loose in our lives, here, now, today.   This moment is all we have.  Our growth in faith is a process, but it’s “lived out in a million little ways day by day” (Chittister)
 Also from another ancient story:  We need to be “an ear that pays attention to every single thing the universe is saying”  Now.  Today.  
Jesus didn’t say, maybe in 2000 years if people get it then God’s dream will be fulfilled.   He said today.   Here now.

Friday, January 22, 2016

humility and listening

Joan Chittister, in her commentary on the daily readings from the 6th century Rule of Benedict, writes what becomes an aha for me about a component of humility often disregarded: listening for and to, and following, the voice of others.   We are not completely our own authority.  She says,
"When we follow the voice of the ones who call us to higher service, we put down our own concerns, allow ourselves to be led by the sights of another, treat our own best interests with a relaxed grasp. We empty ourselves out so that the presence of God can come in, tangible and present and divinely human."
To whom do I really listen?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


This quote is from an old post, written by a Baptist pastor named John Ballenger.

It's really not about you. It's not.  It's about God. W hether anyone might describe you as religious, or pious, or even good, none of these has meaning apart from the maker of all that is good and right. We are dependent on the one who made us to make us better.   But we can give in to the process. We can be willing to become more what God has in mind. Such a moment as this—now—provides one such opportunity for the change to continue.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

colossians challenge: humility

Week 3 of our Colossians Challenge: clothe yourself in our gospel story this morning (the water/wine story) i noticed for the first time that the servants knew what was going on, while the important people had no is often those behind the scenes, the invisible, with whom Jesus engages, and who 'get' it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

kindness, an act

At church this snowy evening....."I have a few minutes before my meeting, and it's messy out there; could I shovel the entrance area?"  Like compassion, kindness involves noticing something outside of oneself.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Colossians Challenge week 2:kindness

Colossians CHallenge week 2: clothe yourselves with kindness. Hmm, what part of this needs discussion?!
It occurs to me that kindness is an attitude but also manifests itself in our speech, our thoughts, and our actions....or doesn't.

Baptized into what?

Baptized into what?
Back in the day of the gospel reading, the world is a mess, the gap between rich and poor is unconscionable, the religious leaders and institutions are self-serving, and the people haven’t had a decent prophet in generations….prophet: one who proclaims God’s word to reclaim God’s people.   Then comes John the Baptist – he clearly fits the prophet mold, and we hear they are “expectant and questioning” as they gather together….expectant that God is up to something and wondering, questioning, if John might be more than a prophet, he might be the messiah God has promised.
When we gather, do we come expectant and wondering?  Open to possibilities or new insights? Or have we, as the religious people and institution, become self satisfied and self serving?   Have we succumbed to comfort and forgotten to expect God to act and be ready to participate in that action?
And into this hubbub of politics and spiritual yearning steps Jesus.  As far as we know, so far he hasn’t done anything miraculous, he hasn’t taught or preached or led people into a new movement.   He just steps into the water to be baptized, ordinary guy, just like everyone else.
It was “While he was praying” that something unusual happened….heaven opened, vision of a dove descending on him, and a voice comes from nowhere.   While he was praying…..Chris told us last week that it is often in prayer, even simple silent contemplation, that we have an experience of the holy.  Clearly so for Jesus.
Only Luke mentions this act of praying.   In Mark’s and Matthew’s gospels, it’s the act of baptism that spawns the vision….in the gospel of John, it’s not Jesus’ vision at all, but John’s.  
Before we know much about this character Jesus, before we know anything dogmatic or doctrinal, we know of two spiritual experiences he has: baptism and prayer.
Seems to me we could base our faith on those two things, and stop fighting about all the other details of doctrine that the church has created over the centuries.  Experience of God is far more significant than knowledge about God……the experience of baptism and the experience of prayer are more than enough to keep our spiritual lives growing and to offer our world healing.
You see, the faith life is about relationship, not doctrine, both relationship with the Divine and with one another in community.   Jesus was baptized into a relationship made public: you are my son, I love you, you give me pleasure.    This echoes lots of stuff in the Hebrew Bible that would have been familiar, including today’s reading from Isaiah: God says I created you, name you, honour you, love you; you are precious to me.   And I promise I will be with you, and be active in your life.
Relationship.   That’s what we’re baptized into….to a life lived—and lived out-- in the cosmic energy of God’s love.
And experiencing prayer is one way we can keep that relationship growing—not just private prayer, but worshipful prayer in community, but that’s a whole other sermon.
When I asked one of our small groups this week what their baptism meant to them, in terms of how they live their life, they said things like
Being brought IN: Belonging to a community …..companionship, so I am not alone…. into courage ……being brought OUT:  out of fear….out of the desire to fit in or be liked….….freedom from burden …washed and given a new identity
 I have the same question for you…if you haven’t been baptized, what stops you? But for those who are baptized what does it mean, in terms of how you live YOUR life?  I know many of you were baptized as infants, and may have been taught ABOUT Jesus, but so what?  How do you live out that identity, that relationship with the Divine?
Take a moment or two of silence, and think about that….could you come up with a sentence, or even a phrase, that you could state if someone asked you why you are baptized?   (silence)
At the beginning of a new calendar year, here is water – we are invited into wondering, questioning, expecting God to be at work, just like those who gathered by the Jordan river.   We yearn to belong, to hear God call us beloved, precious, we long to have purpose as God’s people.   So we offer one this opportunity to reaffirm, or to affirm for the first time, even in the midst of questions and uncertainty about dogma, to say yes to our primary relationship with the Divine, yes to being beloved and precious, to say yes to the Jesus life, yes to the call out of religiosity and into faith. 

Ritual questions and instructions…..

Friday, January 08, 2016

the compassion question

today I read that compassion, suffering with, means "identifying with the homeless person on the street, the depressed teenager about to commit suicide, the helpless trees in the Amazon rain forest, the frightened animals in a laboratory, and with the tortured feelings of anger and hate that we harbor in our own psyches". (from Spiritual Literacy, by Frederic and Mary Brusat)

the question is: by these examples, just how compassionate am I?

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Colossians Challenge week one: compassion

Following up on the Holy Spirit’s challenge, we are invited to forego (or enhance) our New Year resolutions by taking up the practices of Colossians 3.   Each week, participants will focus on one practice, day by day, at home, work, school, play, everywhere, mindfully and intentionally.  For example, the first week’s language invites me to …..Clothe yourself with compassion.

So above the coatrack in our back hall, I have posted a reminder: "coat of compassion".  Each time I put on and take off my coat I am reminded of this aspect of my commitment to live the Jesus way.

Com-passion means to suffer with, and involves my being with another person in his or her hurt, tho  I have found it also applies to being with another in joy.  This week I spent a lot of time at a local hospital, and lots of practice opportunities!  Trying to see the feelings behind behavior or speech is one aspect of practising compassion that requires real attentiveness.