Showing posts from May, 2015

Living In the Mystery, part 3

Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
 Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
 —Job 11:7
 I spend a lot of time in theological discussions, partially because that’s what happens in seminary, partially because reading the Bible on a regular basis forces you to ask tough theological questions (or should, anyway). I’ve come to the conclusion that ultimately, any discussion about God must end with the phrase, “who knows?” As Job’s friend Zophar points out, humans don’t have the capacity to “fathom the mysteries of God.” This is not a copout; it’s just the way it is.
 Think about it this way: When we discuss God, we’re talking about what we believe to be the nature of the ultimate power in the universe. For all of us, that power is a being that is both present in our reality (immanent) and beyond our reality (transcendent). What that looks like to each of us is different, though. Some view God as a conscious energy that pervades all creation, intrinsically part of creati

The Jesus Movement: Reclaiming Christianity in Jesus' Name, part 2

Christianity has never been a homogenous religion. In truth, none of the world’s major religions is homogenous. There are many different forms of Judaism, sects of Islam and schools of Buddhist thought. Once the spiritual founder is gone, the ideas they taught are free to blossom in many different ways. In some sense, I think this speaks to the diversity of God and the needs of our individual spiritual journeys. Hopefully, we are in constant movement toward a more intimate relationship with God. No matter which religion or philosophy we are using to attain a higher state of consciousness, at some point our ideas about God and how we relate to God are going to change. We will need new practices and new challenges to keep us spiritually invested. This is all to the good. For the first few hundred years of Christianity, this diversity was accepted and it seems encouraged. Paul wrote letters to early churches that were incredibly diverse in style. People from all walks of life gathered to

The Jesus Movement: Reclaiming Christianity in Jesus’ Name, part 1

We recently moved into a lovely new neighborhood. As we’ve been walking our dogs and getting to know our neighbors, I’ve discovered that nothing stops a conversation faster than telling someone you’re a minister—especially a Christian minister. You can see non-Christians tense up because they think they’re going to be judged. Others who call themselves Christians immediately presume I am a pro-life Republican, which, for those of you who know me, couldn’t be further from the truth. If there was something further to the left than the left-wing, that’s where I am—out there partying with Aristotle, Fourier, Mill—and Jesus. It’s unfortunate that Christianity—at least Christianity in America, is now almost entirely associated with the far-right, evangelical, Tea-Party Republicans. Unfortunate and ironic, considering Jesus, and the early movement that formed around him, exhibited the most socialist of behaviors (Acts 4:32, for example). Christianity in 21 st  Century America is nothing like

What is "Spirituality"?

Last week, the Pew Research Center released a new report about the continuing decline of organized religion in America. There are a lot of factors causing the decline of attendance in “mainline” churches, but by far the most frequent reason people give for not going to church is simply that they consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious.” What they mean is that they don’t like organized religion.   There are many reasons to dislike organized religion, of course, but in reading the granular Pew report, the corruption, scandals, and big-business like nature of most organized religions is not what’s keeping people away. Rather, the “nones,” the people who declare affinity for God but not for religion, don’t attend church simply because the version of God presented in most churches is archaic.   Being raised in a pluralistic world has been a blessing for most of us. People attracted to the more mystical side of life can draw from a variety of traditions to have a profound spiritua

Monday Meditation

Sovereign God, every person on this planet is made in your cosmic image. In you we are one family. Every bird in the sky and fish in the sea, every planet and star in the universe, takes its place in the cosmos formed from and existing within your body. This makes our relationship with you more intimate than we’ve been taught, for you exist within us, and we within you. Infinite God, we live in difficult and tumultuous times. The fragments of broken promises are strewn about our marketplaces, courthouses, churches, offices, schools, playgrounds, living rooms and bedrooms. The wreckage of once great hopes and ideals has shattered our trust in each other.
 In all creation, you alone are truly trustworthy. Through personal relationships with you, restore our trustworthiness. Support us while we make new beginnings together. Teach us that we cannot be faithful to anyone if we are not faithful first to you. Help us respect, love and trust you above anything else. Help us become more conscio

Raising the Church from the Dead, part 2

This weekend my church family moved into a new, permanent location. It’s the first permanent home we’ve had in nearly five years. We’re very excited about it. We didn’t move into this space in order to save the church. In fact, we sold our old permanent space—the place that had been the church home for over 50  years, in order to save the church. The church isn’t a building, or a dogma or creed. The church is people, in  all their diversity. Paul said there are many gifts given from the One Spirit of God, and that  all  these gifts should be celebrated in church. Unfortunately, over the years church has become a place not to celebrate God’s diverse array of gifts, but instead a place to beat people into submission to a particular set of beliefs. Church is no longer about  faith.  It’s about  belief,  and the two ideas are incompatible. The church of belief must die so the church of faith can be resurrected.   We the people  are the church, just like those early followers of Jesus—th

Raising the Church from the Dead, part 1

Over the past week I was sent at least half a dozen articles on why the “mainline” church and organized religion is dying. Each article had a variety of “solutions” that involved everything from a change in worship style to expensive marketing campaigns. I suppose the idea of a marketing campaign shouldn’t strike me as odd—after all, the gospel stories of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were in essence marketing materials written by the early followers of Jesus to entice others into The Way. Paul was certainly a master of marketing. Were he alive today, I imagine he’d be comfortable sitting in a room with Don Draper from “Mad Men.” That should probably worry us a little bit. Still, those early Jewish authors were writing about their experiences with and understanding of Jesus—both the Rabbi and the risen Christ. They weren’t trying to “save” a church. They weren’t even trying to  start  a church, since they all considered themselves faithful Jews. They were just filled with excitement ove