Showing posts from 2015

Psalm 98.4-6

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

As we peruse the pages of human history, we see a shameful amount of death, destruction, and violence in the name of religion. This was certainly true throughout the five century time span over which the Psalms were written. However, the overarching theology of the Psalms is one of hope and joy. Even while the Jewish people were constantly being exiled and returning home, only to be exiled again, they found constant reassurance in their faith—faith that God would bring them joy no matter where they found themselves. And they sang, danced, and clanged cymbals of joy about God’s faithfulness.

The Psalms, of course, were the hymns of the ancient world. One can imagine groups of Jewish worshippers singing together, just as we do in our modern churches tod…

Monday Meditation

Holy God,
Creator of every universe,
Sustainer of my soul:
Ignite a flame of hope within me.
Fan the flames of Divine Love,
which burn in me with an intensity
too unbearable to ignore.
Motivate me to acts of loving kindness.

We love you, Adonai our God,
because you compel us
to act with love, mercy,
understanding, and compassion.
You are the fuel                    
that keeps the flame of forgiveness
lit within the depths
of our being.
You are the inspiration
that is the very engine
of our creation,
and our creativity.

We thank you,
because you teach us
how to love.
You remind us that
I AM as you are, pure energy.
We adore you and thank you
because you show us
how to care for others beyond ourselves,
and how to see the world
with childlike wonder,
in utter awe of the beauty and majesty
of this inconceivably complex creation.

[allow time for God to speak here]

Still, we confess
we often fumble and fall.
Our busy lives sidetrack
us from knowing you,
from prayer and meditation,
from study of
and unity with the holy.

We forget…

The Advent of Spiritual Oneness

The Bible is a collection of letters and stories, most handed down from an ancient oral tradition that seems to have begun as early as the 24th Century BCE. These people are typically referred to as proto-Canaanites, and would eventually become known as Canaanites (Phoenicians), Amorites, and Israelites. They were a Semitic, and probably Jewish, culture from the beginning.

In the Bible, we read about the Israeli invasion of Canaan, but we often presume the Canaanites are somehow a completely different people from the Israelites. The fact the story reveals nothing about the Canaanites is indicative of just how closely associated with the Israelites Canaan (Phoenicia) was. They were of the same Semitic blood, and most scholars believe they were probably also Jewish. Yes, the Phoenicians we read about as kids were the people of Canaan, and they were Jews. It is also likely all these people were part of a larger group called the Amorites, whose language was—wait for it—Aramean (the languag…

Monday Meditation

Baruch atah Adonai 
elohaynu melech ha'olam 
asher kidshanu 
ner shel Shabbat.

Praised are You, 
Adonai our God, 
Sovereign of the Universe, 
who makes us holy with commandments 
and instructs us to kindle
the lights of the Sabbath.

Fill us with love,
God who forms us from love.
Fill us with hope,
God who always shows us hope.
Fill us with peace,
God who sends us peace.

[pause for meditation]

Open our minds
and show us the truth
of our higher being.
Reveal our true selves:
humans made in your image,
incarnated on this planet
to enjoy a brief physical moment.

Help us enjoy this moment
and revel in simply being,
rather than constantly fighting over
what’s mine and what’s not;
which religion is more true;
which way of life is more correct.

When we realize we are all
part of your infinite Spirit,
and that you desire nothing more than
to simply be,
then who is right
and who is wrong
become moot.

We are all right
if we are living righteously:
at peace with you;
at peace with one another.
In l…

Finding Shalom

Music is a discipline--it takes practice. Musicians practice scales—up and down, up and down, our entire lives. We practice chords and music theory. As we practice and become more proficient, we start to realize that it’s not just playing the scales that’s important—it’s how you play them and integrate them into your musical vocabulary that matters. We start to understand that it’s the spaces between the notes—the pauses, that change a scale from practice for the fingers into the pronouncement of a new musical composition. Check out Michel Petrucciani to hear what I’m writing about.

Peace works the same way. Becoming a peaceful person, finding peace amidst the turmoil of a busy life, takes practice too. Peace is often found in the pauses between tension—either our own inner tension or tension in the world at large.

So, we think of peace in two ways: externally, the kind of peace that’s found between global conflicts, and internally, the sort of peace we seek in our daily lives. Either w…

Monday Meditation

Most loving and gracious God,
as we trek toward
the birth of Jesus,
we come with gratitude
that you are with us
on our journey.

Help us as we travel
to stay on the path
and keep us focused
on the peaceful purpose
of our mission.

We confess that
in the busyness of this season,
we often stray from the holy day
and concentrate instead on the holiday.

[pause for meditation]

As we put up our Christmas lights,
remind us of your light.
Grant us the patience
to pause in our task
and bask in the promise
of the star we place atop our tree.

As we sing songs of hope, joy, peace, and love
remind us to leave space
for your melody,
and for your loving message
of light in the darkness.

[pause for meditation]

As we decorate our trees,
let us take time also
to decorate our hearts
with the ornament of love—
a love that brings us closer to you,
and through you,
closer to each other.

As we shop for gifts,
keep us mindful of
the birthday we celebrate
and the gift we are given in the manger—
the gift of the Christ;
ever being born,

The Cave Dwellers

I was born in a cave. I didn’t know this at the time, of course, because, like all the rest born in the cave, the darkness was all I ever knew. Sure, there was the central fire, ever burning, casting its shadows on our own even more shadowy existence. The central fire stoked by the masters of the flame, and, I thought, at least in part by our own fear and despair.

Until you arrived, my life was spent in chains. Imprisoned as I was in this eternal darkness, I lived (if one could call it living) in an upright, coffin-sized cocoon barely larger than my somewhat substantial frame. For, even undernourished and overworked, my body was (at least, judging from my shadow) rather imposing. My life was purely existence, and that only to eat, work, and sleep in an unending cycle. In the darkness, there was no concept of minutes, hours, days, or years. There was just time spent in my cramped, vertical quarters or working, and all of it in bondage.

At regular intervals, I was allowed to take a turn a…

Making Room

Advent is a season of celebratory expectation. It’s full of symbolism that I believe is intended to remind us that God is both already present and constantly coming into our world. I can think of few other stories that convey this idea more powerfully than the birth of Jesus, who would come to be known as the Christ. The nativity of Jesus is about every birth as God’s way of renewing hope and love to bring about peace and joy on Earth.

Most of us know the story of Joseph and Mary. We probably envision them walking from inn to inn, only to have every door slammed in their faces. However, this idea seems to be a result of modern thinking. In Luke, there is only one line about Joseph and Mary looking for a place for her to give birth: “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them.” Matthew doesn’t mention inns—full or otherwise, at all. There are several reasons Luke has Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem, but I think we too of…

Trying on a New Pair of Glasses

Humans tend to look at the world through fear-colored lenses. For a species that has thrived by adapting to constant change, we’re surprisingly afraid of anything new or anyone different. People lamented the transition from telegraph to telephone, from horse-drawn carriage to automobile. Even though we began as a single group of people on the African continent, as we spread across the globe we claimed land for ourselves, drew artificial borders, and then killed the very people we once claimed as family if they attempted to enter “our” territory. In truth, there is not a single human being on the planet that is not in one way or another an immigrant. In fact, most of us are citizens of countries that our forebears took illegally from indigenous people. Here we are, 250,000 years into human evolution, so afraid of each other that our “leaders” are talking about building walls, or worse, urging us to kill innocent men, women, and children. Either way, our behavior is the result of fear-c…

Monday Meditation

Glorious God of all creation,
we humbly offer
our hearts, minds, and bodies
as your tools
in the creation of
a more peaceful
and understanding world.

We give thanks beyond measure
for your gracious gift
of eternal, unequivocal love
and promise to use
your love for us,
as an example of
how we are to love
each other—
even those who claim
to be our enemies.

[pause and leave silent space for God here] You clearly light the pathway
to love, compassion, and unity
with all creation.
We passionately acclaim
the gifts you give us:
Those moments of clarity,
when we see the world
through your eyes;
those awesome experiences
of your complete, unconditional love;
those too few quiet moments
when we are consciously
ONE with your presence,
when your being
becomes our being.

[pause and leave silent space for God here]

However, we confess that
we lead human lives
preoccupied with the “stuff” of this world,
stuff that often separates us
from the knowledge
and acknowledgement
of your constant presence
vibrating wildly within us.

Many of us are …

Monday Meditation

God of endless wonder, we marvel at the awe-inspiring beauty and infinite diversity of your eternal universe.

I awoke this morning to the sounds of life: A dog barking in the distance. Birds outside my window singing 1000 melodies, on tree branches filled with multi-colored leaves and flowers filling the air with the sweet scent of your sustaining love.

My eyes opened as if for the first time, the colors of existence melting together like prismatic candy stirred in a vat of boiling water. Is this the same reality in which I fell asleep yesterday? Or, in my slumber, have I jumped across the very fuzzy line of the metaphysical into some new awareness? And is awareness of a new reality indeed a new reality, or simply a deeper appreciation (recognition?) of the place I have always been, yet too blind the beauty to see?

Asleep, the world is dark and dangerous. Despair and small-mindedness fill my televised, unenlightened life. But awakened by your gentle touch, I am alive! I see hope! I am ho…

Spread Hummus Not Hate

Today is “Spread Hummus Not Hate” day, as 15 Muslim and Jewish activists share communion and travel through Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia spreading a message of hope and reconciliation. The tour encourages people to take a pledge created by Dr. Ali Chaudry, President of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, New Jersey: “While interacting with members of my own faith or ethnic community, or with others, if I hear hateful comments from anyone about members of any other community, I pledge to stand up for the other and challenge bigotry in any form.”

This sort of movement is exactly what I was talking about yesterday—people getting together and saying, “Enough is enough.” If even a handful of us starts setting an example for others, the world will change. It’s not going to be overnight, and it’s easy to give up in despair. But our task as people who see a different vision of the world is to remain steadfast in our faith—whatever we call that faith, and work together for the ben…

Learning To Say "No"

What is it about this world that so readily tethers us to the idea that we are incapable of changing it? Why do we accept the status quo, even though the status quo is designed to beat us into submission? Why do we continue to read about school shootings, corporations cheating and lying to us (I’m talking to you, VW, and Wal-Mart, and probably the rest of you, too), and a political field filled with do-nothing candidates who combined have the intelligence of a rutabaga (and that’s probably generous)? Why do we do the zombie-shuffle to our jobs, where whatever life is left in us is sucked out by a fluorescent corporate machine ready to throw the empty husks of our humanity on the burning altar of unfettered Capitalism?

Is anybody awake out there? Or have our mass mediums of propaganda and destitution finally defeated our souls? I suppose it’s easier to sleepwalk through life than it is to mount the difficult (but not impossible) struggle of resistance this world so desperately needs rig…

Monday Meditation

Holy and Loving God,
we are humbled and awed
by the company of saints
whom we join
on our journeys of faith.

Thank you for
your gracious love
that invites us all
into your compassionate embrace.

Thank you for
the uncountable saints
who through the years
have been a light in our lives,
influencing us to act for justice;
modeling for us how
to walk faithfully with you.

God of History and Hope,
in every time and place,
you have inspired people
whose devotion and integrity
inspired others
to find Oneness with you.
Make us people
Whose devotion and integrity
are also an inspiration
to everyone we encounter.

Continue to bless
all the people of light and love
who call themselves by many names;
who practice their faith
with unique and inspired variety;
who lead their children,
their neighbors,
and their friends
toward a more intimate
and complete relationship with you.

Make your Spirit pour out
in power and wisdom
upon the collection of saints
reading this today—
as well as all those
we hold dear,
both near and far,
living and decease…

Sharing the Temple Mount

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was originally the site of the First and Second Temples mentioned in the Bible. The Mount is now home to the Dome of the Rock, a magnificent Islamic Mosque. Unfortunately, the interior of the Mosque is as off-limits to non-Muslims as the original Holy of Holies was to non-Jews (and even Jews who were not of the Priesthood). It's unfortunate because, in my opinion, no house of worship should be off limits to anyone looking for a place to connect with God. No matter what we call ourselves, if we are seeking a moment with God and are called to Temple, Mosque, Church or Synagogue, we should be allowed inside. In fact, we should be warmly invited to share in the presence of Universal Love.

Instead, we set up gatekeepers and use them in the very wrong sense of the word. A gatekeeper isn't supposed to keep people out. A gatekeeper is supposed to shepherd people inside. We misunderstand the word in our modern era because too many of us live in gated commun…

Tear Down the Walls!

Walls. We all run into them now and then. Perhaps we’ve even built one or two. Sometimes, when we’re running low on creative fuel, we might say we’ve “hit a brick wall.” If we're being forced into an uncomfortable situation, we might feel like we "have our backs against a wall." For protection, we hide behind walls, and when we see injustice in the world, we strive to tear them down. We face physical and psychological walls often throughout our lives.

As we journey with God on a spiritual path to a closer relationship with God we hit many, many walls. Others erect walls that block our spiritual journey for a variety of reasons: belief in God is passé; religion is just another corporation trying to control you; spiritual experiences are tricks of the mind. As seekers of relationship with God, we are bombarded with ideas designed to make us think twice about being a person of faith, a sojourner toward spiritual wholeness.

Jumping the hurdles of the outside world is only half…

Monday Meditation

Thank you,
Great Eternal Presence,
for blessing us with awareness
of a deeper reality,
beyond the shallow noise
of this artificially sweetened world.

Holy God of all creation,
feel our natural love for you,
as we feel your love
permeate the very fabric
of our being.
Help us experience
the intimate nearness
of you.
Impel us to know
that you are
the very cells in our bodies;
the atoms in our cells;
the electrons orbiting
around the nucleus.
You are our nucleus,
Holy and Infinite God,
and we are your atoms.
Charge us with positive energy.

[pause to meditate]

Sense our trust in you.
Every day
we sing,
laugh and cry
because we are so overwhelmed
by your intense,
loving energy.

You well up within us,
and when we are fully aware
of your presence within,
you burst forth
like a ray of light,
revealing a word
of incredible beauty,
and a people
of deep compassion.
Make us beautiful, Loving God.
Make us compassionate, Holy Source.

[pause to meditate]

You break us from
the hypnotic spell
of a world that tells us
we are worthl…

Monday Meditation

God of infinite love and grace,
we come to you
ever thankful
for your abundance of love,
for this place of worship,
and for this time of prayer.

[pause for meditation]

We appreciate
that our faith
binds us to each other,
and to all which is holy.
We realize
that the holiness
we experience
in and from you
is most powerfully reflected,
when we see
and experience
holiness in each other
(and realize there is no other).
You bind us together,
loving emanations of
your one, great Spirit.

[pause for meditation]

And yet we confess that
there are some people to whom
we do not feel bound.
There are times when we build walls
instead of opening doors.
We turn a deaf ear to those in pain
or in need of our counsel,
because we are too busy
to open the doors of our hearts.
Sometimes, when we listen,
we listen poorly.
We talk when we should be silent,
and we are mute
when we should use our voices
to destroy the walls
of apathy,
and fear.

[pause for meditation]

Make us in your image, Holy One:
a positive force in this world;
a h…

Universal Consciousness, part 2: Jesus

The stories we read about Jesus in The Bible draw from a variety of sources: The historical Jesus, stories about Adam and Moses, and even the life of Buddha. It may surprise you to think that anything in the Bible is related to Buddha since we tend to think of it as a Jewish text. Indeed, the Bible is a product of Jewish culture, but no people develop their ideas about anything in a vacuum. Other cultures always surround us and influence our ideas--both intentionally and subconsciously. The Jewish people who authored every story and epistle in the Bible were constantly surrounded by (and often subjugated by) other cultures.

The archeological evidence is also incontrovertible: The first Israelites were an amalgamation of Canaanites and Amorites who migrated into what is now Egypt and Syria in the early second millennium BCE. They were multicultural and henotheistic from the beginning (Henotheism is the belief in many gods with Yahweh as the Supreme Being--references to the "Divine …

Universal Consciousness, part 1: Buddha

If the creative muses are willing, over the next couple of days I want to compare the stories of Buddha and Jesus. While both stories can be read as historical accounts, they are only revelatory if we read them as allegory. This is not to discount the historicity of either Buddha or Jesus. Their lives on the historical stage continue to be influential. Yet, focusing on them as people from the past has also sidetracked the greater meaning in their stories and made them both objects of worship, rather than gateways to enlightenment. By focusing on Jesus and Buddha as historical characters—and often becoming obsessed with proving they were historical figures, we, especially in the West, have lost much of the important meaning in the allegory of their tales.

Let’s begin with Buddha (born 500 years before Jesus, it is impossible to look at the teachings of Jesus and not see Buddha’s influence). At the time of his birth, a prophet revealed that Prince Siddhartha would grow up to be either a …

Guided Meditation & Centering Prayer

Guided Meditation & Centering Prayer
Today is International Day of Peace. In order to bring a true, lasting peace to the world, we need to become more peaceful as individuals. I do not believe that can happen without a significant change to our spiritual being. We must be people grounded in the mystery and healing love of The Universe if the systems of our planet are to change significantly.

Toward that goal, in church yesterday I showed a short, 10-minute guided meditation. So many of you have asked for the video that I’ve linked it here for everyone. While we often associate meditation with Eastern religions/philosophical systems, centering prayer is a very ancient Judeo-Christian practice. From Moses to Jesus, from the Benedictine monks to Teresa of Avila and Pope Francis, spiritual sojourners have practiced (and encouraged the practice of) centering prayer and meditation for thousands of years.

Centering prayer roots us in God. It’s a form of silent meditation in which we prepa…

Rebuilding Our Spiritual Foundation, part 2

In our church, we talk a lot about the idea of "spiritual oneness" with God. The idea is that we are not beings separated from God, but rather, are created from the very being of God. There is no duality, no "us" and "God," no physical body and separate soul. Rather, we are one being, created from and always part of the consciousness of God. This relationship is the foundation of our existence: We are One.

Oneness isn't a new or even particularly revolutionary idea. The concept is found all over Scripture: "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deut. 6:4). "Then God said, 'Let us make humans in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every …