Showing posts from 2018

Preserving Peace

Isaiah 26:12 (CEB)Lord, grant us peace, because all that we have done has been your doing.

On the way home from church the other day I heard a story about the riots in France, over their proposed new gas tax. The scene is horrifying. Swarms of yellow safety jacketed people are sledgehammering buildings, incinerating cars and splaying graffiti all over the Arc de Triomphe.

Graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe! At that moment I was utterly French and appalled at the idea any of my countrymen would deface the Arc.

For me, the Arc represents everything France has historically stood for: liberty, equality, fraternity. One for all and all for one. France has always been the bastion of real democracy, the true light on the hill, whether we Americans want to admit that or not. And nowhere I was imagining a scene from one of those Purge movies, the Arc wholly covered in layers of graffiti, Paris burning in the background, the Eiffel tower’s ribs molten metal, twisted and broken.

Then the light change…

Preserving Hope

One of my favorite classic films is an old Humphrey Bogart flick called “The Maltese Falcon.” It’s a masterpiece of film noir, all shadows stretched to the horizon and tight shots of faces full of secrets. I’ve seen this film what seems like hundreds of times. The reason I’ve been able to do so is because the film has been preserved for future generations.

In the case of a film like “The Maltese Falcon,” this is somewhat fortuitous. Most of the movies of that era were shot on highly flammable cellulose. To make matters worse, once stored, the film also degraded very quickly.

Fortunately, movements to preserve old films have been mostly successful at saving and restoring classic cinema. Some brilliant works that we know of (from magazine articles and radio interviews of the era) are gone forever, unfortunately. But many early movies have been preserved for filmmakers and filmgoers alike to continue to learn from and enjoy.

What we are doing for film today is what the Essenes, the Gnos…

Monday Meditation: A Thanksgiving Poem

As autumn lifts its lazy head
and shakes the leaves
forming winter’s bed,
I, too, awaken.

The chill in the air
is a refreshing slap
that tracks me back
to mindfulness
and considered acts of kindness.

We’re told to be thankful
for this or that,
but in truth,
I’d rather bury myself
under the mat of leaves
so graciously laid
for the start of winter’s nap.

Yet, awoke I am
and more aware
that too many people
don’t want to care
about you or me.
Fear of the other
makes them want to flee
the long, dark nights
of winter’s strangled light.

Thus, thrust into
a snap of cold
that wraps my soul
as a shrink-wrapped scroll
of perfect, preserved hope,
I turn my focus
to the lasting warmth
of the spark of God
that ignites all souls,
and leads me through this
troubled world.

The winter months
are not a blight
but a chance to begin anew;
to start our days with thanks and grace
and spread more love, it’s true.

Night cannot last,
cold shoulders warm
as everyone
around the globe reforms.

Remember, awakened ones!
Every human is sourced the same,
from the…

Humanity of the Saints

Humanity of The Saints
by Michael Junkroski

Psalm 31.23-24:
All you who are faithful, love the Lord! The Lord protects those who are loyal, but pays the proud back to the fullest degree. All you who wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage.

Psalm 148:14
God raised the strengthof his people, the praise of all his faithful ones—that’s the Israelites, the people who are close to him.

Today is All-Saint’s Sunday, and this year I’ve been wondering, just what is a saint? Someone who does good things? We all do good things now and then, I would hope. Many people dedicate their entire lives to doing good things. If being a saint means doing good things, then how many good acts does it take to become a saint? I’m asking for a friend.

What is a saint? Someone who lives a life of sacrifice? How much sacrifice? Mother Theresa type sacrifice, Pope Francis style sacrifice, or not-eating-fish-on-Friday sacrifice? Martin Luther sacrifice or Jesus sacrifice? Does any sort of sacrifice qua…

The Welcoming Shepherd

“We don't need to tolerate each other. We need to accept each other.” ― Abhijit Naskar

John 10.2-6
[Jesus said] The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The guard at the gate opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he has gathered all of his sheep, he goes before them and they follow him, because they know his voice They won’t follow a stranger but will run away because they don’t know the stranger’s voice.” Those who heard Jesus use this analogy didn’t understand what he was saying.

When I was a nascent human being, we lived in a little clapboard house in small-town middle America. My favorite room was an addition to the back that opened the once-tiny family room onto a decent size den. The room was all windows and sliding glass doors, the light inviting me onto the cushy, comfy, autumn gold, orangey flames of fire shag carpet tiles.

In one corner of the room, framed by two picture…

Monday Meditation

Embrace me, holy love.
Fill my soul with wonder,
my mind with curiosity,
and my heart with compassion.

Give me the vision of Jesus,
who always invites us into his family.

Motivate me to live by his example
and be inspired, through his Spirit,
to always welcome God into my life
by recognizing God in every life. Amen.

What is Necessary? Part 6, God

Isaiah 40:18 (CEB)
So to whom will you equate God;
to what likeness will you compare him?

Isaiah 40:25
So to whom will you compare me, 
and who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Let it be so, because he delivers the needy who cry out,
    the poor, and those who have no helper.

He has compassion on the weak and the needy;
    he saves the lives of those who are in need.

He redeems their lives from oppression and violence;
    their blood is precious in his eyes.

For now, this is the last topic in our What is Necessary? series. The journey was inspired by a question someone asked me at one of our 9am Sunday morning discussions: Why is God necessary? In a post-industrial, postmodern, post-superstition (mostly), information (and disinformation) based society, why is God necessary? 

I think it’s an important question for people of faith to ask themselves and each other. When we no longer require a God that controls the weather, causes and cures disease, or chooses sides in wars (although w…

What is Necessary? Part 5, Repentance, Atonement, Forgiveness

Jeremiah 24.4-7 (CEB)
Then the Lord said to me: The Lord, the God of Israel, proclaims: Just as with these good figs, I will treat kindly the Judean exiles that I have sent from this place to Babylon. I regard them as good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not pull them down; I will plant them and not dig them up. I will give them a heart to know me, for I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

Let’s continue our discussion about the “classical” elements of Christianity and whether they are (or what about them is) still necessary for a 21STCentury, postmodern belief system.[1]

This week we’re considering the ideas of repentance, atonement, and forgiveness.

We recently observed Yom Kippur, the Jewish holy day of atonement. Jesus would have celebrated this holiday for 30-odd years. He would have understood its rituals, prayers, and meditations as his covenant responsibility to God. Repen…

What is Necessary? Part 4, Sin

What is Necessary?
Part 4, Sin

John 15.1-4 (NIV)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."

We’ve been discussing what we think are the necessary components of 21st Century Christianity, both personal and communal. Through our previous discussions about Jesus, the gospels, and the Bible, we’ve helped each other better appreciate the rich conversational heritage of Jesus’s followers.

My hope is that by remembering Jesus’ tradition was to teach us to think for ourselves, we’ll give ourselves permission to question some “traditional” Christian thought. Jesus challenged the accepted thinking of his day. If we’re his students,…

What is Necessary? Part 3, The Bible

2 Timothy 3.15-17 (CEB)
Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.

Romans 10.17 (NIV)
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

During part two of our What is Necessary? series last week we discussed “the gospel.” We looked at the history of the word “gospel,” from the Greek Evangelion, which loosely means “good news.” We learned that “good news” was the Roman Empire’s term for the information its orators, called evangelists, distributed throughout the Empire. The term “gospel” was usurped by early followers of Jesus to both protest the Empire and proclaim the real good news of Jesus Christ: that God and human …

What Is Necessary? Part 2, The Gospel

What Is Necessary? Part 2, The Gospel

ACTS 10.34-35 (CEB)
Peter said, “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another. Rather, in every nation, whoever worships God and does what is right is acceptable to God.”

ROMANS 1. 16-17
I’m not ashamed of the gospel: it is God’s own power for salvation to all who have faith in God, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. God’s righteousness is being revealed in the gospel, from faithfulness for faith as it is written, The righteous person will live by faith.

Last week we talked about Jesus, and what we as Christians find necessary to believe about him. This week, we’re going to consider the biblical stories written about Jesus, what Christians refer to as “The Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

To have a conversation about what in the gospel is necessary for us—to believe, to live, to emulate—we must consider two things: What is a gospel, and what is the gospel of Jesus Christ? There is no simple answer, by the way. S…

What Is Necessary? Part 1, Jesus

Matthew 3.13-15 (CEB)
At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him. John tried to stop him and said, “I need to be baptized by you, yet you come to me?” Jesus answered, “Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”

 Luke 24.25-26
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”

Acts 4.12
Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved.”

We were moving our son into his dorm in New York recently. While we were there, we visited one of our favorite charity thrift shops. The kids are great thrifters. They’ll look at second-hand clothing, shoes, bags, and tchotchkes for hours. I look around the store more quickly, maybe trying on a shirt or two before I find something to…

Quantum Jesus

John 6.53-59 (CEB)
Jesus said to them, “I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Human One and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me lives because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. It isn’t like the bread your ancestors ate, and then they died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

The author of The Gospel of John has Jesus using provocative language to stimulate the minds of his students. The language above is graphic and often riles us even today. What is Jesus talking about, eating his flesh and drinking his blood? Taken literally, this passage is like an episode of “The Wal…

The Void

Philippians 2.6-8
Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

This passage from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi is a beautiful hymn about Oneness. It conveys how deeply Paul understood that Jesus was a teacher in the Jewish wisdom tradition who called his followers to a radical shift in consciousness: away from the misperceptions of this temporal reality created by mind and ruled by Ego, into the unified field of divine love, which must be perceived not only by mind, but also by body and soul.

Obedience for Jesus and Paul is not subservience, it is wholeness, unity, Oneness. Experiencing it requires silencing (or learning to ignore) the constant, blaring fabrications of our minds and merely sitting in non-judgme…

Five Poisons, One Antidote

PROVERBS 6.16-19:There are six things that the Lord hates, seven things detestable to God:
snobbish eyes, a lying tongue, hands that spill innocent blood, a heart set on wicked plans, feet that run quickly to evil, a false witness who breathes lies, and one who causes conflicts among brethren.

The Proverbs list of “things God hates” eventually became “The Seven Deadly Sins:”

lechery / lust (luxuria in Latin)gluttony (gula in Latin)avarice / greed (avaritia in Latin)sloth / discouragement (acedia in Latin)wrath (ira in Latin)envy (invidia in Latin)pride (superbia in Latin) “The Seven Deadly Sins” were etched into my psyche sometime while we lived in Moss Bluff, Louisiana. I was a high school junior. Because of the mixed religious background of my parents (and my own innate unwillingness to take anything at face value), I had done a lot of reading about different religions and reached the conclusion that every organized religion was more dangerous than helpful to the o…