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Showing posts from August, 2015

Moving From Worship to Relationship

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A real experience with God—a real relationship with God, often fills us with complete and utter awe. Still, this sense of awe comes from an experiential relationship with God—a relationship that may indeed be worshipful, but not one that requires us as loyal subjects to worship our Eternal Lord. A friend reminded me that believing God is the being of all being fills us with respect and makes us feel worshipful—not out of fear of punishment, but simply out of respect for what God means for everyone. While I understand and agree with the sentiment, I still think the word “worship” itself implies an unhealthy relationship.

I believe that a large part of the problem the church in general faces today has to do with language. The language we use in the church is often still steeped in the language that was used in a world of Kings and servants, Emperors and slaves. In the 1st Century, when Jesus’ teachings were first spreading, society was extremely stratified. The people Jesus preached to w…

Is Worship Unhealthy?

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One of my continuing struggles with religious institutions is the worship experience itself. Even the term “worship” drives me increasingly crazy. Who or what are we worshipping, and why? This ancient, archaic idea that God “demands” worship and unwavering loyalty (and what that loyalty means can often only be interpreted by a specialist) is unhealthy. We’ve been taught to accept and even pursue a codependent relationship with God, and I don’t think that is either what God intends (if God even has intentions, which is debatable), nor in any way, shape or form good for our mental and spiritual health.

Most church experiences today—especially Sunday services, remain locked into this very ancient idea that we assemble to worship God. They present us with the misbegotten idea that if we do something wrong, God will punish us—kick us out of the Garden or damn us to eternal Hell. These ideas don’t reflect the covenant relationship that our most ancient stories reflect. Worship out of fear of…

Monday Meditation

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God who energizes us,
who loves us into being
and blesses us with
creativity,
courage,
intellect,
and reason,
we thank you.
We humbly accept
our gifts
and will strive
to use them
for the good of
our families,
our faith,
and our world.

Open our minds
to a new way of thinking;
our hearts
to a new way of feeling;
our eyes
to a new way of seeing,
so that all people
will see each other
as a single family,
all interconnected
and interdependent
upon each other.

Urge us
to nourish
all those who hunger
in body and spirit.

Make every place
people gather a holy place,
a home
for the intellectually
and spiritually curious;
a place of safety
and acceptance,
no barriers,
no exceptions. We know that
we are living into
a new world,
Holy Infinite Presence,
and that,
as children born
in the age of science and reason,
faith is often given a bad rap.
Belief in God
is often met with a snicker and derision.

Yet, we who sense
something more
consider ourselves
reasonable, scientific,
and faithful.
Help our message
reach others like us,
others who may have been
hurt …

The Crucifixion of Jesus, part 3

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It seems apparent that Jesus caused enough trouble to draw the ire of the Romans, who eventually saw his movement—a movement of peaceful non-compliance, as a threat to the stability of the state. The Romans would have made this decision without consulting the Jewish leadership, and had the Jewish leadership presented any opposition, the Romans would have ignored them anyway. The story about Jesus’ ‘trial’ in the Bible is a complete contrivance in every respect, from the day of the week it was allegedly held, to the manner in which it proceeded. This is just not the way things worked in Roman-occupied Judea.

Rather, the Romans would have simply decided to execute Jesus and done it. No long walk carrying the cross, no tortured journey to Golgotha (Calvary). He would have been taken, most likely, to the nearest Olive tree, a cross-member attached to it, and hung there to die. Crucifixion was reserved for those who had committed crimes against the state. It was a tortuous way to die, and t…

The Crucifixion of Jesus, part 2

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The Crucifixion of Jesus, part 2
Jesus proclaimed loudly and unabashedly that the laws of Roman society were unjust. He constantly pointed out that both the Romans and the Jewish priestly class were subjugating the people, enslaving every single one of them in one way or another—to Caesar or to Moses, and that this was simply not the way people were to live. For Jesus, any caste system was untenable.

Jesus said all this in an an area of the world that had always been tumultuous. Assyrians, Babylonians, and now Romans occupied the land that Jewish tradition said had been given to them by God. To make matters worse, in Jesus’ time the Jewish people (Jesus’ own people) were governed by a cruel, heartless Roman—Pontius Pilate, who had no qualms about randomly killing people in the streets. 

The story in The Bible makes Pilate out to be much gentler and forgiving than history shows he truly was. The historical record about Pilate shows a vengeful, hate-filled, ruthless megalomaniac who would …

The Crucifixion of Jesus, part 1

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While we’re working through the historical context and development of biblical ideas and stories, it’s important to remember that the Bible is multi-layered. Each story and letterhas both a historical context (which is usually not a factual history, but rather an historical setting in which the biblical story takes place) and a spiritual context. The spiritual context of the story is really where the meaty stuff is. The spiritual meaning is what the authors of the stories wanted to convey to us about our relationship with God. Every single story in the Bible is an existential human musing about finding what Thomas Merton called our “true selves.” As the world has grown ever more literal (what has happened to our imaginations?), we’ve found it more and more difficult to discover and connect with the spiritual meanings in these ancient texts.

So too the historical context. As the Bible became more and more revered—partially because writing itself was so revered, the words took on a holy …

Monday Meditation

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Good and loving God,
we give thanks
for the many gifts
we have received
today and throughout our lives.

We are thankful for
the many people
who volunteer their time and talent
to the needs of this world,
people striving together
to serve those in need.
It is a great blessing, indeed,
to serve with people
from all walks of life,
your children working together
to bring food, light, and love
to a world hungry for spiritual
and physical nourishment.
God of Magnificent Wonder,
we are most thankful
for your eternal presence in our lives.

Join us all together
as one body of love.
Move us through the world
as beings
so filled with love and grace,
that, like our
Great Teacher Jesus,
we too might
become healers,
and remind a broken world
of the wholeness found
in you.

We ask a special blessing upon
the students and teachers
who return to school
in the coming weeks.
Keep them safe.
Make their environment conducive to learning.
Help our leaders provide
teachers and students
with all they need,
so that future generations
of your people
will…

Keeping it in Context, part 2: John 3.16

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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

One of the most popular quotes in the entire Second Testament is also one that is most often used improperly and out of context. This phrase comes in the middle of a story about a Pharisee named Nicodemus. The first thing we have to remember about the context of this story is that Pharisees were equal parts political movement, social movement, and Jewish school of thought.

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the basis for Rabbinical Judaism, which eventually became the mainline Judaism we know today. Since John was written only a couple of generations after the destruction of the temple, keeping the Jewish liturgical and ritual traditions alive was very much on the minds of the Rabbis. So too in Jesus’ time. Nicodemus was a highly educated, intelligent fellow very concerned about the traditions of his people. As usual…

Keeping it in Context, part 1

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At one time or another, we’ve all heard someone say, “Well, that’s what The Bible says, so I believe it, end of story.” For many people, The Bible is a magical book that can be read and understood at face value. This is simply not true. The Bible is an ancient book that is incredibly complex. Understanding the various letters and stories it contains takes an incredible amount of work. Much of this work has to be done exploring the cultural context in which the stories and letters were originally written. This means reading works about the Bible, not just reading the Bible itself.

Written thousands of years ago when societal conventions, laws, political, and economic systems were vastly different from ours today, The Bible “says” a lot of things that have no place in modern society. Furthermore, the modern propensity for taking everything in the Bible literally (few people in the ancient world thought the universe was created in seven literal days), rather than as the metaphor and analo…

Monday Meditation

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God of Infinite light,
we give thanks
for the many gifts
we have received
in our lives.

Guide us
as we use our money,
our time,
and our talents
to show a hurting world
just how powerfully healing
the modern church can truly be.
Compel us to use
our time,
our talents,
and our money
to serve the hurting people
in our world.

[grant yourself a few moments of meditative silence here]

Holy and Loving God,
with bowed heads
and hearts filled
with your loving presence,
we thank you
for your steadfast love and faithfulness,
for your mercy and your grace,
for your guidance and wisdom,
for every moment
of every day.

We acknowledge that
our world is in great need
of your presence right now.
Violence, hunger,
hatred, bigotry,
racism, sexism,
illness and disease
seem to impact
more and more people
all the time.
The effects of our disconnect
from you
become more apparent,
more pervasive
and more harmful
every day.

Sometimes,
the world seems to be getting worse,
instead of better.
During these stressful times,
help us recognize your presence;
help us…