Mission Statement

Cyber Sabbath's goal is to begin to mend the division between Christ and the world (society) that Church has created through reflections, sermons and devotionals

Cyber Sabbath is a place for the stifled Christian voice to be heard. Media gives way to much time to the extremist - over looking the theologically educated and/or the moderates in favor of what sells their view point. Here, politics aside, a pastor reflects on God's voice in every day life.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas

As I think about Christmas this year, I can't help but think about the Church Universal, the church individual and the hearts of all people who call themselves Christian, who love another Christian and who live within a nation of Christians.  I can't help but laugh at the 'War on Christmas' and ask myself if even those proclaiming the war really want Christmas to be about Christ.  For something does get lost in the holiday when we spend time buying up commercial gifts and putting them under our giant sparkly Christmas tree.  For Christ was born in a lowly manger, no crib for a bed.  For Christ was born to a poor family who were homeless (if only for a few nights), living on the street and living into the shame of Mary being unwed when pregnant. 

Jesus was not born into the glamor we have made Christmas to be.  Jesus was not visited by a jolly fat man nor were any of the noses of those manger creatures glowing.  Jesus was instead born into the peace of the clear midnight.  Into the stillness of the night he was born out of the love of God for humanity and into the loving arms of two parents who would see to it that he not only grew but grew to know love.

And that my friends is what Christmas is about - Christmas is about ONE present: Jesus.  A gift available for anyone and all who want to unwrap it.  Who want to accept it and to live into the greatest gift of all.

But the most important lesson from Christmas and Jesus' birthday doesn't come from what I just said, but instead the profound IMPORTANCE of this day is within whom God trusted the beloved Jesus.  You can debate whether Mary was a virgin another time - here we are taking about a young pregnant woman, whom God choose to fulfill the big plan.  God choose a woman and through her shame (becoming pregnant without being married), God taught all of us a lesson.  That EVEN in our shame, God is there.  Even in our sins (albeit Mary's wasn't due to sin), even in our darkest and lowest places, God is there.  And more importantly, God's will can transform a desperate situation.

We are all worthy of God's amazing gift through Christ.  Christ could have come as anyone - a rich man, an old man, an earthy king, ect... but instead Christ came as a child, born to an ordinary family (with perhaps a bit more shame than most).  We are all worthy of God's love which brought to us forgiveness in Christ. 

This is a powerful thought...the Christ child, God humble walking amongst us, came for the salvation of all - not just a few.  God's gift of a savior is so that all may come to believe, to feel and to be inspired by the gifts of forgiveness and love.  And so on this day, let us believe ourselves worthy...no matter our shame, no matter our life situation or our circumstances - believe and know ourselves to be worthy not only of the love that God has for humanity but the forgiveness that comes with accepting Jesus into our hearts.  Let us feel this forgiveness deep in our souls so that we may in turn spread the message of our savior.

Merry Christmas to ALL and to ALL a good night - knowing, believing and trusting not in gifts under the tree, not in turkey and family gathers, not in alcohol or drugs but in the Christ baby that came to show the world that God's love extends to even the most vulnerable. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

title?

Here are my ramblings of this week. 

First, I almost feel badly moving on from the horror of what occur last Friday in Newtown, CT...for me and my family life goes on as normal, but for all those in that town not only will life never be the same but only a week later the realities are just starting to settle in and the grieving that will come with this holiday words will not be able to heal. This week as a nation we mourned as we heard stories and many were buried...but on dec 25th Christmas and more like commercialism becomes the highlight. 

One of the reasons I liked being a hospital Chaplain was being there for people in there greatest time of need is such a holy and sacred privilege. Yet,  I always prayed that when the dust settled someone would be there for them...when the dust of this tragic event settles, I pray that these people and this town continue to find the support they need.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

is prayer too late?

As the events that took place yesterday morning in Newtown, CT begin to unfold and a timeline is created, many ask why pray now - for God didn't save those children.

No, God didn't save those children.  God didn't stop the events that lead up to this horrible event and didn't stop Adam from committing a horrific crime.  Instead evil prevailed and 20 young children were lost yesterday along with 6 of their teachers / caregivers.  As a nation, our heart is  weeping for the lost of so many, especially so many young.  Our heart is heavy with the knowledge that in less then 2 weeks Christmas will be here and so many families will be grieving instead of celebrating, unable to find the hope of the season. 

But does that mean that God has forsaken us? Left us?  Does events like yesterday prove that there is no God? Is our prayer really too late??? 

I had a previous blog on the fact that God doesn't leave us, we are the ones who push God out and ignore the Divine presence.  Events like yesterday don't prove that God has left us - God never promises that nothing bad will happen or that all good will come.  In fact, the idea of living in "all good" only comes with the Kingdom of Heaven not with believing and praying.  Bad is still going to happen, evil is still reigning and no matter how much church we attend or how hard we believe we are still left with the knowledge that bad things can still happen to us.  And no matter how much we want to see our county as "God's country" or a "Christian nation" the reality is that God stopped protecting "his chosen" when Jesus opened salvation to all. 

But God can still be found in the tragic events of Newtown.  God was in the teachers who shield the survivors and remained clam.  God was in the strength it took for the first responders to do their jobs even though most of them knew children in that building.  God was in the brave children who were able to escape that room and God was there with all those children during the shooting - providing a clam, strong and loving presence.  Amongst the chaos, God was there.  And now, the prayers are needed for those families who lost loved ones and for a community that will never be the same.

I am reminded of a quote I read in a book once: "More and more people find themselves drinking at the wells of each other's spiritual traditions, and engaging in a deep and common quest" (Jim Wallis). Collectively, we grieved yesterday and are still grieving today for the lost of so many.  Our prayers and thoughts going out to those families are helping to fill the wells that this tragic event has sucked dry.   As we continue to look to each other and to God for understanding, it is there in our prayers and in the connection of the Divine Spirit within us that we will find hope.  Hope in the future, hope in the Kingdom, hope in faith.

As Christmas approaches and for some of us the hope seems lost.  Let us remember that for many of those living in Mary and Joseph’s time, hope seemed lost.  They were being ruled by Rome, society wasn’t the same and it felt that God was missing – especially to many of those who were lower class.  And when this baby was born, the hope that he brought wasn’t understood – it took another 30+ years, a lot of teaching and a resurrection to fully understand the hope that this Emmanuel gave to the world. 
We might not ever understand when tragedy comes our way and we might never be able to stop the evil that still exists in this world.  But we can choose to find hope, hope in the knowledge of our faith – hope in the presence of the Divine – hope in the collective Spirit that transcends us all.  Even if this Christmas is still too early for us, if we begin to accept the Spirit within us, one day we might find the hope that Jesus brought us. 





Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Accepting of Gifts

I was taught (after some hurt feelings to some Uncles) that you receive gifts with a gracious heart, even if you don't like it.  In fact, unless it didn't fit, we didn't return anything.  I have these relatives that lived far away who often sent me clothes that were huge and instead of returning them, we wrote thank you notes, sent pictures as a way to hint our sizes, and went on.  If the item was hand made that it was even more important that we showed how much we appreciated the time they spent on the item.  It didn't matter that it wasn't our taste, they had obviously spent a lot of time on this and thus we should be gracious.  But this wasn't forced gracious - it wasn't fake behavior.  What we learned was to be thankful that they thought of us, they the person tried and that the gift giver took time, even if it was shopping, to get something for us.

But that isn't always the case.  I know someone who received what they had on their "list" last year for Christmas but it wasn't the color they wanted to the next day they took it back to exchange it.  And that has become the norm.  When I worked in retail the day after Christmas people returned things for the craziest reasons and not usually because the fit wasn't right.  When it comes down to it we have gotten it in our heads that we need to get "what we want" and people have restored to buying each other gift cards so that the recipient can get just what they want.  But when did gift giving become all about the actual gift we get and not about the spirit or occasion being celebrated?

And worse...is this "what we want," even down to color and shape, a parallel to our challenging the Christian faith?  Is God's amazing gift of grace through the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ not enough for us anymore?  Is God's will clashing with our own desires to the point that we are denouncing the faith to be Spiritual or to not believe?  

Recently a police officer in good will, gave a man a pair of boots and socks.  It was a great moment in which he didn't ask to be recognized.  Days later, the news couldn't leave it alone - let it just be a nice moment.  Instead they had to track down the man, only to find him not wearing the boots, there are now claims that he wasn't really homeless...we are ruining the graciousness of the action of the police officer because of the humanness of that man.  And we are doing that within our own Spiritual journeys as well -

We are ruining the graciousness of God - the true love that God has for us and the true forgiveness of our sins - by allowing the humanness to get in the way.  By not accepting God's gift - either because we let the world and sins get in the way, maybe because we ruin the spirit in which the gift is given (freely) because we don't feel we deserve it or maybe because we find so many flaws with in the gift (Christianity) that we can't accept it.

Jesus didn't come down to give each of us what we wanted or to be genie in which wishes are granted.  But instead to offer us a relationship with God like done before, a relationship in which grace and forgiveness rule.  So this Christmas, let us with open and welcoming arms, let God into our hearts ... and be thankful that although faith and religion isn't as perfect as it could be, it is coming from God and through the Spirit to us with our fate in mind and with love for each of us.  Let us spread love, respect, grace and Christ this holiday instead of gifts that fit into selfish desires.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Sunday Morning Traditions

Here I am, slowly but surely starting to create a new "normal" in our daily routines and life.  Our toddler is getting used to this new schedule which now includes another living creature.  Our lives have completely changed and grew more complicated then I ever thought was possible! But the fun is just beginning and the amazing blessings that come with new life have already touched us making this life even more fulfilling...

But I haven't been back to church - I know a pastor and All!  I am afraid of the germs that the new baby will catch and have even held off my toddlers return despite her plea to "go with daddy" on Sunday mornings.  As I sit and drink coffee until noon, clip my coupons from the Sunday paper (planning my weekly grocery shopping) and enjoy life - I remember why there were Sunday mornings in high school when the alarm would ring and we would all cry from our beds "are we going to church?"  We even have an inside joke in our family about some of these mornings.  But lets face it, with the busy lives we live and with the schedules that demand our time throughout the week, having a morning to relax and enjoy family seems just as, if not more important then family?  Doesn't it?  And couldn't (as some have argued) that sitting at the table enjoying family is a form of worship, giving thanks to God and living life? 

The lazy part of me who loves my PJs, so much that I wouldn't ever get out of them if respectable people could actually go around wearing them and be taken seriously, says YUP: staying at home and enjoying family is important and if Sunday morning is the time you can do this then I understand. 

And a part of me always will understand...but then there is the part of me who feels kind-of weird not going to church...kind-of weird not taking that time in community with others to truly worship God and to give over my whole self for one hour.  But I know that I feel this way because that is what I do on Sunday mornings - that is my tradition and if my tradition was to sit and drink coffee with family then I am sure I would feel out-of-sorts if I was working instead. 

But if you don't carve time out of your schedule for God - create space for God in your life then you aren't going to be able to have a full relationship.  If you don't make time for God's community in your life then you only have 1/2 the relationship you could...and sorry if this is harsh but you have much more of the selfish 1/2...the half that doesn't open yourself up to be challenged, to be called by God to do God's work in the world.  You need time to fully engage in worship and although you could argue other outlets then church - why can't you just accept church?

It is like Green Eggs and Ham turns out her never tried them so he didn't know they were good.  You can't proclaim that your Sunday morning tradition is better then church, if you haven't tired it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

baby

So you all probably guessed but the newest member of our family was born, a little boy weighing in at 8pounds!  This little guy is a joy and a wonderful new addition to our family!  Our little lady is loving being a big sister and I am enjoying a few blessed weeks at home with just the kiddos!

I am sure I'll be back blogging as of course I got things to say and I am developing a few thoughts, but I want to take this time to enjoy these little moments that happen only once and are gone in a flash!  We humans are miraculous creatures and it is truly amazing to watch the development, even at only a few weeks old the little man has already developed and changed! And the little lady's role change is wonderful.

So take some time to find the blessings in your life and enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I'm I gonna go there? Politics?

I wasn't going to blog on politics, but probably because I've hit 40 weeks and no baby and as any person who has had a baby knows but now I'm just ready for this to be done.

I will admit that I usually try to avoid debates...why?  Not because I don't want to have knowledge about who I am voting for but because the debates usually leave me disliking both candidates and really wondering if our country wouldn't be better off with Mickey Mouse running the show.  The point of a debate is always for the non-president to prove that the last four years were horrible and could've been better, especially if you voted for the guy that didn't run.  Then you have the president trying to prove that indeed he did do a good job the last four years...and at the end of the day, no matter which guy you want to be president, change isn't gonna happen unless we all take up more responsibility for voting within our own districts and local levels.

Change happens on local level first.  Change happens within our counties and our states and most importantly within our congress.  Yes, the president is an important figure but we need to vote at every election for all our representatives.  We aren't going to have change or even get our congressman/ woman to work together if we don't hold them accountable but actually voting in the elections.

Every 4 years, more people turn out to vote then any of the other years - and there are WAY more then one choice on your tickets...so this year, cast your VOTE not just for the president but for your individual representatives the people who can create the change but working together, by actually creating by-partisanship.

We are called to hold all of our government accountable to us - the people...not just one figure head but all those who are elected - all who hold office on our behalf.  So please VOTE for more then just one guy this year, more then just red or blue but VOTE for all those who represent you!  

Friday, October 12, 2012

saints myth

We are all sinners - we all do things in our every day that hold us back from a full relationship with God and that separate us from those around us.  And so no matter how Christian we think we are - or how faithful to our own religion we think we are - we must realize that we are all sinners.  Even those of us who believe ourselves to be saved, realize that is is because of Grace and God's love that we are saved and not out of our own righteousness.

Therefore, churches are houses for saints but instead refuge for sinners.  Sunday mornings is not a gathering for those deemed righteous but is instead a time for all of us to spend in communion with God - feeling God's love and striving to be better. 

What sets us apart, when we proclaim our faith is that we are proclaiming that we acknowledge our sinful nature and are going to strive to live the best life possible - a life of recovery. 


Friday, October 5, 2012

Lesson from Job on anger

I am always surprised by the number and amount of anger people in church.  Although I have blogged on the fact that no one at church is expected to be perfect and it is of course a place for sinners; unless you are brand new to church you would think (or presume) that those attending are trying to get better...trying to create a relationship with God.

I am thus surprised by the shear number of people who come to church anger and despite a worship service in which we are encouraged to open ourselves to the spirit, we instead allow ourselves to stew to the breaking point - taking our anger out on others in the church or God. 

How can the church be a place for healing and a place for sinners to come and find God if in fact, it is a place full of anger and contempt?  That is what we need to work on...creating an environment within our Churches (universal) and our individual churches that is both inviting to all those who need a place to find God and safe enough for others to work through their relationship with God, even if that relationship is one full of anger. 

I am always reminded of Job because Job had EVERY reason to be angry and hate God, he had every reason to turn his head and walk away from the Divine and never believe again - and yet he didn't.  He stayed faithful to God and to what came his way.  He didn't let Satan win, he didn't let evil (or negative feelings) get in the way of opening himself up to the Spirit and allowing God to help him through his healing process.

When we enter into relationship with God - be it through praise and worship, be it through prayer and devotion, be it through yoga and meditation - we should be entering with open minds, open hearts and most importantly ready.  Even if we don't know what we are ready for - or even if we deserve that reward.  We should open ourselves to God as we would a beautiful present that is left at our door - we don't know what is inside but we ready to find out. 

If you come to the Creator full of anger then you will not be open to the healing that could come...if you come anger you will surely leave disappointed that you aren't in control of everything, especially God.  But if you enter into relationship with the Divine ready - you will be surprised the healing that can take place, the learning that can change and the grace that can transform. 

So come to God this week - not anger with your situation or the fact that you aren't in control of your life, but with submission - or perhaps shame - or guilt - or lack of trust - or fear - but come READY and you may be surprised what you find.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

responding to God

For awhile now, I have been thinking about this - how do we respond to God.  You see, our baptism is just a sprinkling of H2O and a nice presentation if we don't ACT on the Spirit that moves within us.  Our life as a Christian - going to church and serving on committees - is just a facade if we don't ACT on the commandments that God speaks to us. You see, our faith is only a RELIGION - a SET of disciplinary rituals or a set of customs UNLESS we ACT.

In The Lorax we find a stone with the word "Unless" and at the end we find out it means that unless someone cares or more precisely, acts on those cares.  And that is true about our faith...for it doesn't become faith unless we actually act on God's call...unless we respond to God.

We can go to church on Sunday morning and still not be following God; but the same is true that we may think we are following God and find ourselves no where on Sunday mornings.  We need to respond to the Spirit that is flowing within us and the God who is calling us by name to follow - to understand - to believe and more importantly to ACT.

Action however, is not self-righteous or stem from our own motives. Action does not mean that we follow our wills but that we listen for Gods.  Acting and responding to God's call is about trust!  Trusting in something bigger then ourselves, grandeur then our imagination and more knowing then our own eyes.

And that is where it becomes difficult to respond to God - for you see it is difficult to trust God.  Let us face it, we as people (as humans) don't trust ourselves much let alone other people.  We are always second guessing others and being suspicious of their own behavior - why? Because we know what we, ourselves, are capable of and we don't expect better from anyone else.  But God calls us to live better, to be better and more importantly God expects better from us.

So, let us respond to God in our daily lives - knowing that God is our cheerleader, God is on our side and that God is waiting for us to in our faith respond. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

37 weeks

so at some point this week my pregnancy will be full-term at 37 weeks...you may or may not hear from me :) We are truly excited to be inviting this wonderful new being into our family and pray for a smooth transition for our 2 year old. 

Praying during stress

So I will be honest that these past few weeks have been full of stress - between a sick kid, this late in my pregnancy and so rough sleeping and some pretty difficult stresses at the church I am surprised (and grateful!) I didn't go into pre-term labor. 

But I find that it is during these times, when you need to be reminded of the presence of God more then ever that remembering to prayer doesn't come to easily.  And it is pretty easy to miss a devotional or two or forget to say a blessing and the next thing you know your stress is ten-fold cause you have forgotten that you don't walk alone.  Yes, we need to be living out our faithful lives and yes, there can come a point in which we ask God for just too much - but during these times it is IMPORTANT to remember to keep the communication going.  It isn't asking God to get rid of your problems or for a "cure-all" but is instead asking God's guidance in you decision making, asking God's strength for your day and reminding yourself that God is walking along side with you, knowing and understanding your struggles. 

The good habits for prayer and connectional relationships that you establish on your daily basis are there to help you especially when the goings get tough (or rough or stressful).  It is important that you continue to strive to keep that relationship open, instead of turning your self inward - this only increases your stress and leaves you feeling alone. 

So, know that within your stressful days if you take a moment to "be still" you will realize that God is there.  As the psalm reminds us: "be still and know that I am God"

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"dealing" with Jesus wife

So, I am always kind-of annoyed when the whole Jesus was married debate pops up.  It was the big theme of that Dan Brown book and the debate always comes to the surface.  The part about the debate that really gets me isn't the possibility that Jesus was actually married but instead the amazing lengths that people go to either proclaim he wasn't or that the church has covered this up unwilling to admit the truth. 

I think the real question here and the real debate here should be why does this conversation make many Christians so uncomfortable? And why does this debate make many non-Christians so excited with glee that Jesus was married? 

The reality here is that this should stir conversation...conversation about Jesus' humanity and divinity.  For this is really what is at the core of this debate - how much was Jesus human and divine?  Where is the line and when does it get crossed.  For some Jesus couldn't have sinned or his divinity would be called to question, where you know from previous blogs I feel that Jesus as fully human had to experience sin - separation from God - in order to fully take on our sins and offer salvation to humanity.  But the question here isn't really was Jesus married but where does the line between his humanity and divinity blur?  Making it difficult for us to understand the truine nature of God. 

You see, when Jesus first died - when Matt, Mark, Luke and Paul were writing - Jesus was a human.  People knew him, people felt him and people saw him.  His humanity was not called into question for all understood him in that nature, a fully human being.  So, much time was spent proving his divinity.  We see this in Matthew's attempt to time and time again prove the Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  We see this in the great extent that Paul goes into the idea that Christ is the bride of the Church and what the resurrection of Christ did for us.  You see, those early pioneers were forced to PROVE that this human being that all had come to know, even if just through word of mouth, was actually a divine God. 

As the early church wasn't even formed and there were as many practices following Christ as their were people it become very important for the earlier foundation setters that Jesus divinity was proven and understood.  This understanding of a God - a trinity God - was expanding the thought of the Hebrews and was often misunderstood as just another pagan cult group.  But it wasn't, and they were trying to explain that.

But eventually, and you can see the shift as early as the late 1century and even in some of John's work, the new generations who didn't know the Jesus who walked amongst us were starting to need to understand the human side of Jesus; and so the paradigm shift began and the discussions continues today.  The debate forever now is how do we understand Jesus as both the human and the divine Christ.  How do we live with this seemingly contradictory duality?

Which brings us to the newest evidence a piece from a group called the gnostic from the 4th century which has Jesus proclaiming someone as "my wife."  Oh- the holes in this that have proven it to be of course false, but for me this isn't what we should be looking at.  It doesn't matter if Jesus wasn't actually married, what does it say about the cultural dialogue and the early Christian church that we have such scrolls?

For me, it means that this debate of Jesus humanity was still an important part of our culture.  The gnostics just don't talk about Jesus' wife but have many other controversial thoughts - especially because the book of Thomas goes deep into Jesus' childhood and what that was like for him as he came to understand his divinity. 

You see, Jesus' marriage status is not what we should be talking about here, but instead how do we as a Church come to understand and accept Jesus as both divine and human.  Clearly there seems to be some invisible line that if crossed proves in either direction that Christianity is false...Jesus can't be either too divine or too human. 

Why is that?  What is it about Jesus' humanity that scares us - why can't Jesus be too human?  What is it about the divinity of Christ that needs to be preserved just so in order for the Redeemer to be a true savior?  And why is it that the Christian church is always blamed in "great cover ups" instead of realizing the truth that the early church, in all its flaws, was not one big cohesive group but instead a group of believers just trying to figure out and understand their faith - and to this day that is all we are, a group, mostly dysfunctional, of people trying to put a faith - a religion - to an experience and a set of personal beliefs.    

Thursday, September 20, 2012

36+ weeks and the baby is almost here

Ok, so I'm now 36+ weeks and in the upcoming weeks a new little person will have come into our family, so if you come on and realize there isn't a new blog...you know why. I will keep this POST at the top of the page so all shall know.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Giving up and giving in and living

so I have been remembering the passage in which Jesus claims that we must live lose our life in order for our lives to be saved (Mark 8).  And I have been trying to think about what does that mean for those of us who are faithful?  What does it mean to lose our life?

For some I am sure this is the moment that in complete despair and in an utter hole of darkness they came to not only believe but to trust in Christ.  But for many this is not what Christ is talking about, for there are many who have never really hit a "rock-bottom" moment  or a moment in which faith was not a part of their lives...

So how do the faithful lose their life in order to be saved?  Or as some claim, if you never feel that moment of rock-bottom are you never truly saved?  Well of course I don't believe the later statement...(Somewhere in my journeys across the internet I found a story, and I wish I could give credit were credit is due but I just can't remember when / where / or who I found this story.)

The story is of a young traveler who left her native home to travel the world and see the sights.  Upon returning to her small remote village, she was welcomed home with open arms and true excitement in hearing her stories.  Yet she realized that for as hard as she tried, she just couldn't explain all that she had seen or experienced for it just left many confused and more bewildered.  The villagers just couldn't envision all that she had seen for there was no framework for them to understand some of the creatures or the plants.  Eventually she just drew a map of her travels and after a nice visit, left the village once more to explore more.  The villagers framed the map and it became almost a sacred item.   

The lesson here is that they were so amazed by this map, and held it to almost a Godly level and YET no one tried to follow the map.  No one else left the village to see or experience better things.  They got so caught up in the paper map that they didn't realize it was really an adventure waiting for them.

Often we get so caught up in all the details that we fail to live our lives.  We get caught up in the church politics or in reading the Bible word-by-word.  We get caught up in following only one set of instructions that we fail to actually LIVE into Christ's ways.  Christ didn't say come and study me, he said come and follow me - come and live like me.  Unless we are willing to give into living our lives following Christ then we are just like these villages, stuck in closed life.  We might be doing well, we might be happy but imagine the sights we could see if only we followed!

It is easy to get caught up in our own lives - our own villages - that it isn't that we forget our faith or that we don't strive to live a faithful life but it is that we have failed to live for Christ.  Instead we live for ourselves.  We pray that our wills happen and our desires take place.  We pray that things turn out our way and that people start acting like we expect or want them too.  We judge people on our own beliefs in the Bible and claim that this is what it means to be Christian.  And yet, this is just living in a village, worshiping a map - or in our case: sitting in a pew worshiping a cross.  Jesus died on the cross so that we can live...

Jesus died on the cross so that we could LIVE...not so that we could look at the cross, worship the cross or hold sacred the cross without wondering what would happen if we followed the cross.  Jesus asked his disciples to take up the cross with him - to carry the burdens of being Christ and to FOLLOW his ways. 

So the challenging in losing our lives to be saved...is getting past ourselves.  Getting past our own wills, getting past our own lives, getting past our own fears, leaving behind our struggles in order to truly FOLLOW Christ...to leave the pews and walk in Jesus footsteps trusting the map left behind will take a places that our own wills never could imagine.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Whose Truth is Truth?

As we are now fully into the election year and the political cloud becomes heavier and heavier I am finding refuge once again in comedy.  I find that  the comics pointing out some of the obvious truths an flaws on both sides of the campaign give me hope that there really is hope left and people who actually do look for the real truth.  I was struck this year by John Stewart's motto for the republican national convention "a party too patriotic for facts" (trust me his motto for the democrats "the sequel, hopefully better then the first but usually not" is not any more flattering but has nothing to do with my blog).

Unfortunately, I think we have all become too ignorant for facts.   And I do use that word ignorant on purpose knowing the harsh tone it takes on.  Because in our information age and in the age when are schools are mostly places for us to keep our children occupied while we work, we have failed to not only encourage people to think for themselves but we have come to believe what comes out of peoples mouths as truths and we don't look beyond.

The problem with faith today - all faiths - is that the "truths" of the faith are often too much up to the truths of the individual follower, leading often to the abuse of the faith to push our own agendas or our own hate.

I once had this roommate who would often end a sentence with "I could have made that up" or would say a sentence like "yesterday, I lied when I said ..... I re-read the article and it actually says ...."  At first I was taken a-back by it but then later began to think it was a really good reminder that when we are hearing it through a third party then the truth we are getting is ALWAYS distorted.

So the only way to "know" for sure is to go to the source.  Unfortunately for most faiths out there our sources aren't around and what is left behind are written words with centuries of thoughts and insights written in between the words.  The ability to take a first hand look at the Bible, or Torah or any of the worlds Holy books is impossible because even if you don't follow that faith you are coming to the book with some encounters with its people or the rumors of its faith. 

And so truth becomes hard to find.  And worse in a day and age when truth can be a finger tip away we would rather forgo the use of it in order to pull at people's emotions and hope to get a deep emotional reaction that then leaves people believing in your own false reality and leaves them forgetting about the fact checking they should be doing.

Once more, unless you actually witness or hear a recording of a conversation between two people, then a quote from it is always bias - why? Because no matter how hard we are listening to the other we are always interpreting...putting our own into whatever it is that they are saying.  We are always taking away more then just the words - we might be using body language or inflection to add to what we think is being said between the lines. 

And yet, despite this crazy ability for us to leave rational minds aside in favor of the emotional untruths that come our way we are also spreading a different kind of reality out there - and that reality is the one in which we don't trust the words that come out of people.  We no longer take words at the face value but instead must look deeper.  The 24 hour news coverage is amazing at this...if there is something they disagree with especially, they can spend hours spinning and flipping the words, bringing in experts to talk about body language or inflection, all to prove that there was "more" there then what was stated.  "MORE" then the words spoken.

And that is where truth begins once again to take a huge plunder to really mattering.  You see, in our attempt to become politically correct or perhaps to conform or even perhaps in our attempt to be liked and have friends, we no longer believe what comes out of peoples mouths - we must read into them, we must add our own interpretation and we must analyze all that was said.  For sure they cannot be speaking the truth because we would never ourselves speak the truth would we? 

Worse yet is when we do find someone who does speak the truth - who isn't trying to hide or cover up - who isn't speaking in half-truths or in riddles.  And these people, although rare and few and far between, end up living frustrated lives in which they get persecuted and accused of lying.

When it looks like a horse, spells like a horse, it is one - even if it has a horn strapped to its head - there are no such thing as unicorns.


I think the challenge for faithful people should be not living into the Word of God but instead living into an authentic life in which they actually try to live the Word.  Speaking the truth and inviting people into REAL relationships, not relationships built on lies or relationships built on half truths.  Not relationships in which we "hide" part of ourselves or refuse to share the true struggles in our lives - but OPEN relationships in which we truly seek out the real in each other and find the Holy that dwells in the sacred space of authenticity and truth.

That is what people are looking for in Church - in the institutions of faith.  Somewhere they can go, be accepted for who they are and be real - have real relationships.  We are a people sick and stuck in our lives of "faking it."  From trying to fit into your workplace to keep your job to competing with each other on social media.  What people are looking for is a refuge and a place for reality.

But today, churches are less real then ever before.  People come to church pretending to be the best Christians and keeping their struggles to themselves in some distorted belief that they have to have it all together.  Churches are fighting within each other and with each other over silly and petty things.  I know a church who is so jealous of another church within its communities success that they are actually taking actions that only brings suffering to both churches - because for sure it isn't there fault that they are failing...

Let us be REAL people!  Let us find the truth that is not set within our own realities but is instead set up in the reality of our faith - the reality of sacred and let us work on real relationships.  Let us not let the emotional words of others pull our rational strings away from us leaving us to believe false statements and let us begin to live in truth.

For only when people coming together with real and authentic hearts worship the Word and spread God's message will the truth behind Jesus' love be felt by all those around and will Christ message and Kingdom be made available to all!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Spiritual emptiness

spiritual emptiness is one of the greatest problems facing all of our faith traditions today.  With the never ending involvement of electronics in our lives - early and early in today's world; we are always connected and always have the "answers" one touch away.  And so, we are left, not knowing how to listen the voice of the Holy and worse, not willing to always give into God's time.

My husband is a good example, he really didn't want a data phone because he thought that they were not needed but in an attempt to be more organized, he eventually broke down to get the phone.  Now he uses data to an extreme (luckily we have unlimited).  Not only is he always looking things up on his data phone but he often turns to his phone when he is bored to kill time. 

Now, I am not saying that he is spiritually empty by any means, but he is an example of just how much the technology we have access to can not only infect our lives but it can take away from us the valuable time we need to communion with our own thoughts and to truly listen to God.  With the sounds and images that otherwise come our way, we all need to activity take some time in our lives to sit back and shut it all out. 

As a mother of a young two year old, we have chosen to not only limit the TV but also sound in general.  Our little girl loves music, but I purposefully leave no electronics in her play room and although will play music for her during the day, don't give her constant background noise.  I find that she sings to herself or plays with one of her musical toys.  But playing in the quiet gives her time to be with her own thoughts, her own imagination an most importantly gives her a chance to develop Spiritual discipline early - cause children need that too!

As our lives become more convenient, we need to remember to look beyond what is planted in front of us and what the Holy might be trying to tell us.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The chapters in our lives

So lately I have been thinking a lot about the different chapters in our lives.  As our baby becomes a big girl, our first house gets sold and our summer has been filled with funerals I can't help but think about the seasons of our lives and the doors that close. 

I was recently preaching on the Road to Emmaus and was once again struck by the fact that here were two men on Easter morning spreading the message and story of Christ when you gather that the 12 disciples were themselves in the upper room.  Some part of me is always a bit upset with the 12 disciples who aren't out shouting and spreading the message but the reality is we have to be patient with them...they are not only grieving the lost of Jesus as a friend and mentor but they are processing and beginning a new chapter in our lives.  No matter how long we prepare ourselves for a death of a loved one, there is still something shocking about it when it comes and a process of grief that we must go through.

No matter how much we expect and anticipate the changes that happen in our lives and the events that mark those changes, we can never be completely prepared for them nor how they will effect us. 

If we are in tune with the Holy then we seek out the Divine presence during this time - some of us to find hope, some to find consistency and others to seek reassurance.  Whichever it is that we seek, the Spirit can help fulfill our need.  And we can find in the Holy Bible a lot of references to transitional time periods.  In fact, many of the experiences of the Divine within the Holy text are times of transition or when people are worried of the unknown future.   

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

stepping up to the plate of Change ...

I am struck by the number of churches and other institutions that are literally holding themselves back from the future.  I recently read in a churches information packet that although they feel they need to change for their own good, most of them are unwilling to because they feel most comfortable in what they do now.  I hear that / see that a lot with churches. 

The big thing for churches right now is the need for young people and young families...this is so badly needed in some churches that when a young family visits they are surrounded in piranha style in hopes that will stay and in fear that they will leave. 

But what about this change that is needed?  Is it structural?   Well of course it is a bit of that as our denominations do need to take a hard look at themselves but mostly it is just the need for people within the churches to step up to the plate.

As Christians, we should be living our lives everyday - not just on Sunday for Christ.  And by doing so, exploring and finding a new way to live with Christ.  As our lives change so to does a good relationship with the Divine and yet, we live as if our relationship needs to be unchanging and worse we look to leadership for change and when they begin to produce, we blame leadership for our own dis-like.

The real change that needs to come from the churches, needs to come from the individuals and us as Christians.  No longer can we look at our life with the Holy as a constant unchanging relationship - we need to realize that we are forever to be growing and being challenged.  We also need to realize that although we are free from our sins and by grace God has offered us new life - we are still suppose to act and live into that new life.  We as churches are failing if the majority of the people around us are unchurched or even distrustful of church.  We are failing as churches if we continue to enable the poverty around us instead of thinking outside the mission box to do something for that poverty.

No more can we just sit pretty and wait for someone else to come along and change things - heck we have been waiting close to 2000 years for Christ and that return hasn't happened yet!  Are we going to just waste away, letting our churches die as we sit in standing water?  I sure hope not!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

trying to forgive

What does it mean, the word forgiveness?  Do I mean in common terms or Christian terms? 

To unpack forgiveness, I first think we need to realize what it doesn't mean - that one needs to forget.  I also don't think that forgiveness means "go back to the way things were" or even that things go "back."  Some times forgiveness can be granted without it needing to be accepted and the other way around accepted without ever being granted. 

Forgiveness in common terms is difficult.  It is difficult because of pride and hurt feelings but most of all it is difficult because it isn't natural.  What do I mean by that?  Well, it doesn't seem right to let people back into our lives who have hurt us - protecting ourselves from future hurt.  It doesn't seem right to let forgive people who have done us harm (physically, emotionally, mentally...) because what is to stop them from doing it again.  Trust isn't something that comes easily to us humans and it requires a ton of trust to forgive - and especially since we are usually forgiving someone who broke that trust!

And yet, in Christian terms that is what God did for us.  We broke our side of the trust - of the contract with God.  Dating all the way back to the beginning, we continued to fall short of not only God's expectations but the trust that God granted to us.  Our tasks on Earth aren't really that grand and God's expectations for us really aren't unreal and yet time and time again we break that covenant - that contract - with God.  It isn't the other way around, God doesn't break the contract...well at least not since Noah and the flood...God keeps the Holy promises.  But how many times do we fall short of our promises to God?  How many times do we pray "this will be the last thing I ever ask for, if only..."  Or "God please help me with ... and I'll never ask for anything else."  Or "I'll stop acting or doing..."  We are always falling short of these the big requests but even in our daily lives when we claim we will pray more and then never do.  Or we go to church only for the social aspect of catching up on gossip instead of getting into the real worshiping of our Lord.  The bottom line is that we fail God often and yet, often blame God for failing us.  (but that is another blog).

Today we are looking at forgiveness and the fact that despite all of that and all the sins we continue to do on a daily basic (remembering that I define sin as that which keeps us from having a true relationship with God), God still offers us forgiveness.  What does that mean?  That God wipes the board clean and forgives us? No!  But that God, knowing our human ways and our humanity (fully understanding through Jesus Christ) grants us grace and forgives us...allows us to move on and continue to have an open relationship with the Holy.

Forgiveness doesn't mean that our relationship with the Redeemer goes back to what it was before our separation but it also doesn't stop it from being even greater.  It allows our relationship with our Creator to be anew, to be different and gives us an opportunity to walk a new path with the Divine.  

And in our lives that is how forgiveness should work.  It should allow us, not to forget the hurt that people have caused or the pain that we felt - for those are often scars that may never heal.  But instead allow us to say we are not going to give power to the negative - power to the hurt or living with the anger but instead we are going to move on.  As we do move forward with our lives, there is still room for those who afflicted the pain, should they choose to change their behavior.  There is still room for relationships to be had - but they will never be the same.  However, forgiveness does not always mean that relationships, human relationships, can be restored.  Sometimes the forgiveness is that both parties are able to move on, letting go of the past and creating a new future. 

Accepting forgiveness from God is one of the hardest things to do - especially when you feel unworthy; but truly giving forgiveness out can be another of the hardest things we do...partly because of the overwhelming feeling that it means things need to revert back and amnesia needs to set in and partly because truly moving forward is never easy.  But let me assure you that forgiveness is not about forgetting.  It is about moving on, moving past and allowing the new paths in your life to carry you to the future.  It does mean, accepting what has happened to you and accepting the wrong that was afflicted on you.  It also means accepting the person and the faults of the person who did the wrong.  It means accepting to trust again - putting yourself out there to continue to love, trust and live.  Once you have settled your forgiveness - you will not be the person you were before and your relationship will never be the same but you won't let either get in the way of the path that God has set before you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Let Go and Let ...

I have what I would call a love/hate relationship with this phrase "let go and let God."  Partly because I would love to be that laid back person who just lets go and lives in the moment and yet I am not.  I am a person who is always wondering and always looking forward.  It is difficult to "release" up to God when your theology (probably because of your personality) says that being completely passive isn't a good thing either.

Every once in awhile a joke/ lessons comes across the emails and it goes something like this (I don't know who to credit for this but it isn't mine).  A flood was coming and a neighbor went to an older woman's house and offered her a ride out of town, the woman said that "God will take care of me" and decided to stay.  Then a police officer making rounds on foot stopped at her house and asked her to come with him to safety.  Again she exclaimed that "God will take care of me" and decided to stay.  Next as the flood waters were raising, a boat came to her as she stood in her second story window and asked her to get in and yet again she refused believing tat God would take care of her.  Finally as she was standing on the roof a helicopter lowered a ladder and asked her to grab it and she refused staying to her beliefs.  The next thing she knew she was standing in front of God and she proclaimed "why didn't you save me?"  God said "I sent a neighbor, a police officer, a boat and a helicopter, what more did you want?"

This story could have several lessons in it...but for me it always reminds me that we need to take an active roll in our lives and in our followings of Jesus.  That is isn't a laid back let Go of everything for to truly be following God we must be actively listening - perhaps as one of my parishioners said recently it is "Let go and Listen"

Either to let God or to listen, this is one lesson, I still need to work on.  Letting go and living in the transition.  Living in the time of the unknown and being OK.  With a new baby coming and the anticipation of that life changing event (how will our older daughter deal?  how more chaotic will our lives become?) letting go and not dwelling on the what ifs is truly important. 

So for me, my recent goal is to work on this...letting go to listen and let God lead instead of trying to take the reigns myself.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Jesus' took on our sins...

I think that the hardest part for us as Christians is not the belief in the birth of Jesus but is instead the belief in resurrection and going along with that the availability to have complete forgiveness from our sins.
It seems to be one thing to say that Jesus forgives us of our sins and yet a completely different thing to say Jesus took on our sins and explain to people this concept.  As a pastor, I am always confronted by someone who just wants to belittle this and use this as proof that we Christians don't know what we are talking about.  I find however, that some of the facts that we accept easily with our beliefs are the hardest to unpack - especially for others.

In a society where there is more secular then Christian, we have now come to a place where more and more everyday Christians are meant to answer these theologically packed and loaded questions that even those of us with degrees have a hard time wrapping the answers up.

So...I have been thinking about this lately.  About how Jesus died for our sins, taking on the sins of the world.  and I have come to the conclusion that in order for him to have taken on the sins, he must have experienced them. But does that mean he must have committed them all?  By all means NO!  The idea "sin" is really the things that separate us from God - the things that keep us from having a full relationship with the Divine.

As I was reflecting on Jesus' final moments and the difficult part of Jesus' death in which he exclaims "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?"  Albeit a quote directly from the psalms, still a pretty eerie thing for Jesus to say in his final moments.  Wasn't this God's plan?  Didn't Jesus understand the need for his death?  But there is SO much more here: it is here in these moments that Jesus is FULLY HUMAN and experiencing true sin so that we may be forgiven.  It is here in these few lines and this chilling call that Jesus truly understands what it means to have sin - to be separated from the divine relationship for here he accuses God of leaving him - of allowing him to suffer such pain. 

And perhaps he has a point in the later, but God never leaves us.   It is in our own sinful actions that we separate ourselves from God.  It is when we let the world, society or whatever we covet in it, consume us - leaving our relationship with the Holy to suffer.  It is then that we feel alone, or worse abandoned by God.  And Jesus had to feel this way, had to fully and truly be human in all our flaws in order for his death to bring us true salvation - true grace. 

You see Jesus wasn't perfect, I am sure I shared or at least will share some of the other places in the Bible that Jesus doesn't follow the "will of God" and strays from the Divine's plan, but we all do.  In order for Jesus to truly be our savior, his humanity had to be real and authentic.  That doesn't take away from his real and authentic divinity but it makes a good point at reminding us that Jesus wasn't a saint when he walked the Earth, he was a real "Joe."  If he wasn't then how could all of us real "Joes and Janes" expect to be saved through his life?

I hope this post brought new meaning behind "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" That you come to realize that in those moments, Jesus truly took on the sins of the world and yet when we in our deepest pain, in our grief and in our times of shame when we come before God believing that God has abandoned us, we can find solace in knowing that not only is God still there (for Jesus' divinity never left him!) but that God truly understands and knows our pain and took it on so that we might find peace.  Know that God never truly leaves us, it is us who leave the Holy.  Know that the Divine understands our humanity and yet still wants to offer us grace!  A pretty amazing thing!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A blogger's prayer

I found this and thought this was great! Since I am busy this week with VBS and today with a horrible migraine, writing a blog seemed like a daunting task.  So thanks to ANDREW JONES and the http://www.orucc.org/wp-content/uploads/Alternative-Lords-prayers.pdf website for posting this great "blogger's prayer" which rings so true!  Enjoy this and I'll be back posting my own words later this week!

Our Father
who lives above and beyond the dimension of the internet
Give us this day a life worth blogging,
The access to words and images that express our journey with passion and integrity,
And a secure connection to publish your daily mercies.
Your Kingdom come into new spaces today,
As we make known your mysteries,
Posting by posting,
Blog by blog.
Give this day,
The same ability to those less privileged,
Whose lives speak louder than ours,
Whose sacrifice is greater,
Whose stories will last longer.
Forgive us our sins,
For blog-rolling strangers and pretending they are friends,
For counting unique visitors but not noticing unique people,
For delighting in the thousands of hits but ignoring the ONE who returns,
For luring viewers but sending them away empty handed,
For updating daily but repenting weekly.
As we forgive those who trespass on our sites to appropriate our thoughts without reference,
Our images without approval,
Our ideas without linking back to us.
Lead us not into the temptation to sell out our congregation,
To see people as links and not as lives,
To make our blogs look better than our actual story.
But deliver us from the evil of pimping ourselves instead of pointing to you,
From turning our guests into consumers of someone else's products,
From infatuation over the toys of technology,
From idolatry over technology
From fame before our time has come.
For Yours is the power to guide the destinies behind the web logs,
To bring hurting people into the sanctuaries of our sites,
To give us the stickiness to follow you, no matter who is watching or reading.
Yours is the glory that makes people second look our sites and our lives,
Yours is the heavy ambiance,
For ever and ever,
Amen

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Gospel According To _________

I have been thinking lately about one concept - the departing of the Christian faith from the Jewish faith.  The relationship between what the first followers of Jesus thought of for themselves and how we see ourselves today. 

One of the things that I am "stuck" on is the concept of how the imagine of God changed through the Old Testament to the New.  How a God who chosen the Israelite as "his chosen people" and went so far as to send plaques to Egypt to prove his power and his people's place...who brought the walls of Jericho down without a fight and who favored one ethnicity in the early days of the Old Testament morphed into a God who gave to all who believe grace.  Who humble walked amongst us to make all those who chose, chosen people.  To me, it isn't surprising that the Hebrews were confused with Jesus and believed him to be speaking not of God's authority for although there world-view and view of God was expanding, Jesus was taking them to new levels. 

If you look at the Bible, however as an evolving expression of the human experience of God, you begin to see how this change wasn't really so surprising.  For as we as humans continue to live and experience the Holy, we are changed and forever shaped.  For each of us the Holy is a bit different and some of us may be able to describe our God in beautiful language while others might only be able to describe a feeling.  We all experience the divine in our own way and in our own time.  If we were to write our own Gospel - or Good News about how God works in our lives, they would all be very different.  Some vivid like dreams and others short poems...much like the Bible.

The other important lesson here is just how much the imagine of God changed as the perspectives changed - not only the individual human experience but as the human's world-view grew.  I am thus struck to remember that there has been 2000 years since us and Christ.

That is right...a few thousand years separates us and the New Testament...this doesn't mean the New Testament isn't still the Word of God or worth anything but it does mean that imagine of God is most likely not the same imagine as those who wrote the Good News.  Our experiences aren't even close to the life experiences of those who wrote the Testaments and further our world-view is ever changing.

We live in an area were we are using the internet to communicate instantly with people. We have portable phones that can fit in our pockets and do more then ever thought imaginable.  We experience God in new ways every day and in our own individual lives vastly differently.  So we need to recognize this and begin to lift up - the Good News According to ______ fill in the black with name. 

In a way this blog, is my Good News how I experience God in my life.  Think about that as you experience God, what would your Gospel look like? 

In order to have true theological debate, in order to truly hash out some of the important topics of our times, we need to first recognize the Gospels of those around us and begin to listen to their own experiences and how they define God.  We can't just throw Scripture at each other and expect that we are all on the "same page" when we are reading from different Gospels.

Friday, July 20, 2012

When bad things happen

I find it most interesting that although I usually don't blog on Fridays, today there was a huge spike in the number of people who "checked out" my blog according to my stats.  I am sure this is in direct relationship to the shootings that happened earlier this AM at a movie theater in Colorado.  When bad things happen, all of a sudden us "religious" folks are looked at for sage advice or perhaps the answer to this age old question of "why do these things happen?"  Often this question is worded more like "why does God let this happen?" 

When horrible and tragic events take place and we are reminded that our world just isn't as safe as we thought - especially when something hits us in a place that gives way to "innocence" like movie theaters or schools - we begin to question the bigger pictures of life.  It is in these dark moments when answers seem difficult to find that we often fall into the trap of releasing too much control to God.  We begin to blame God for "letting" this or worse "ordaining" this to happen.  And we often feel anger at God.  We seek out "religious" leaders to give us answers and when their answers fall short and our anger is too much we turn away from God.

Bad things happen, evil is working in this world and God does not ordain any of it.  Tragic events shake us at our core but shouldn't push us to anger towards God.  Instead we should take hold of the Holy who is grieving with us and who is walking along side us. The Holy who is offering us strength and wisdom.  The divine who worked in all the emergency responders who I'm sure saved lives and more important brought order to a situation in which chaos was abound.  God is in all the prayers who have been offered on behalf of those suffering today and is helping us as a nation understand. 

Although we have a clear "bad guy" in this horrible rampage, God is with his family and Jesus' forgiveness is available to him.  For we do not know what led up to this.  If anything the shooter's family needs our prayers as they are as much a victim in this as those shot. 


Unfortunately, in order to have an all good God, we must know and experience the opposite - evil.  For as Humans are knowledge is limited by opposites...to know hot we must know cold, to know big we must know small and to know good we must know evil.  We can hope that good continues to out weight evil...we can each do our best daily to spread more love and good to world in hopes that evil ceases but as Humans our hearts are easily turned. 

Let us come together, not to be angry with God - a feeling that only pushes more evil.  Let us instead spread good through our prayers.  Let us take some time to spend quality time with our family - remembering that time can be cut short.  Let us take some time to realize and be grateful for all that we have and all the love we can spread in God's Holy Name.  

Check out my latest sermon

Listen to my latest sermon: Serving Up Heads...a taken on the beheading of John the Baptist.   Enjoy!

http://sermon.net/wolcotthuron/sermonid/119973661


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Burning Spirit

So as the temperature rises both in the heat of the summer and in the passion I have for changing something about church - I always begin to think about the Spirit and how it makes my life - or our lives as Christian - different.  At Pentecost this year, I talked about each of us being like a kernel of corn - hard and pretty tough; but when we get heated up by the Spirit of God in us we can pop open and become not only something very good and a source of nutrition to others but in doing so we become vulnerable.  It is that vulnerability that keeps us from truly letting the Spirit fire us up, especially in our white-European churches.

Lately we have been having a visitor from Jamaica worship with us.  In a discussion about the differences of worship services, I told him that we are the "frozen chosen" a term often used to describe the many "mainline" churches in which proper white folks sit together silently praying or offering a loud pre-written prayers.  We don't do much outside the "order" of things and God forbid we ask people to stand and move around - heck most of us even pass out communion in mini-glasses that resemble shots and cubes of bread.  This is how we "do" worship and there is Holy and Sacred within this frozen and motionless service.  For many of us, this is the only time during our busy and chaotic week that we have time to just breath and just be with God.  There is a spiritual flare to the stillness and there is a sense of Holy in the quiet and there is a wonderful sense of comfort in the fact that we aren't taken out of our zone of vulnerability - our kernel although popped into popcorn through the heat of the Spirit doesn't have to worry about being broken.  We don't have to worry about opening ourselves up to each other for we are all there for a different purpose - to worship our God in our private and yet collective way.   For us our connectional church is one based on private understandings and private faith.  And there is nothing wrong with this.

Except that those who are searching, those who are seeking to feel the Spirit in their lives want something MORE.  People are claiming to be "spiritual and not religious" because at the end of the day to many people what happens in "religion" isn't real because they don't feel it.

People want to FEEL the power of the Spirit moving, and they want to experience God as Abraham experienced God - they want to walk along side the Holy, feeling the Holy's presence and they want to converse with the Holy.  The want to feel the Divine Spirit like the Prophets of Old giving them messages and helping them see the light.  People want the heat of the Spirit to truly transform them from a kernel to a piece of popcorn and to LIVE into that popcorn...to let their vulnerability be seen by others and to have that help create community.

For community doesn't happen when we keep our lives private or when we protect ourselves from pain.  Community happens when we open ourselves up to each other - excepting help and excepting prayers.  Excepting love and loving those around us.  Community happens when we let ourselves me a popped corn in a huge bowl resting on the frailness of the corn below us, knowing that together we are uplifting and strengthening each other. 

Somehow, we have lost this sense of the Spirit - perhaps in our desire to protect ourselves.  Perhaps over time as the church has burnt bridges or caused hurt, we have silently gone to private worship.  Maybe perhaps out of trying to control the Spirit we have lost understanding that the Spirit can't be controlled.  For those who are seeking God anew, they understand this, they are looking forward to finding a place that they can let their Spirit go and feel empowered by the Holy around them.  They are seeking a church home in which each person acknowledges their vulnerability and yet at the same time uplifts what they can do with the Spirit of God heating up their souls. 

The good  news?  Not only is that there are churches burning with the Spirit out there but there are plenty of people whose Spirit is on fire - both within and outside the bounds of the "Church."  There is a lot of movement of this wonderful heat and there is plenty of popcorn looking for a community for support.  Let us help each other, let us find each other and let us uplift each other.  Excepting each other vulnerabilities only  to love each other and spread the will of God.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

debate within the church

I have been struggling for some time, as many of you know or have gleaned, with the way the secular society continues to portray and see the "Church."   The often one-sided misrepresentation of religious folks has led to a lot of ignorance of what it means to be Christian and has also led to a lot of barriers between religious folks and the general population.  My blog has been set up as my way of trying to set the record straight for my corner of the world.

But this year especially, I have been bombarded with examples of Christians living into the very image that the secular world has - which according to a study is that we are: bigots, narrow minded and ignorant.  And for every step I try to make in changing peoples minds, I feel like I am pushed by the wind backwards three.

A perfect example of this was the most recent PC (USA) general assembly meeting.  This meeting which happens once every two years is a council meeting in which lay elders and clergy work together to bring polity and mission issues back to the local churches.  Things that happen at this meeting are not by any stretch of the imagination final however, words and actions that were spread there are.

First, in full disclosure I would like to state that I did not attend - although I watch much of it on live stream.  But second, I was struck with how large the margin was between the young adult delegates / seminary delegates "votes" and the actual votes.  You see, we poll our young adult and seminary delegates, asking for their advice / thoughts and yet we rarely vote with them - the future of our church.  In our largest and most heated debate we discussed at length the changing of the definition of marriage within our polity.

The definition of marriage has already changed within the secular world - like it or not.  And like it or not we need to have these conversations.  But I just can't believe how these conversations end up going down.  (and they do go down!)   For these young people who our congregations sent with pride to the GA meeting, excited that someone in high school or early college cared enough about their church / faith, we did a huge injustice.

For no matter what, after witnessing those debates and seeing the flaws that we, as all humans, have - yes even ordained and lay elders - their view of the church is forever changed. The secular world, perhaps even their friends and family, was proven right; for in our debating our Christianity was lost.  Our self-righteous need to be right was taken over and our drive to "win" at any cost put Christ right back up on the cross.

The sad part is, we are trying to encouraging young people in an unchurched / post-denominational time to come to church.  We are trying to help those who are lost find the divine that is within them.  We are trying to help our society, our communities and our families have the same type of relationship with the Redeemer that we have: lively, filled and amazing.  And yet, despite this drive of good intentions, we are driving people away from our buildings, away from the house of God and away from the relationship that they seek.

I have read some arguments that it was good for these young people to witness this and that it will inspire them to strive for change - perhaps even ignite them to continue to want to push for the much needed change within our denomination.  and to that I say - I hope so; but I fear that is not what happened.  You see if the margins were the same; but the debate was done with compassion, with love, with Christ then I would agree.  They would have witnessed something empowering and would want to strive to be a part of it, even if they don't agree with it.  But when they witness something so difficult filled with tension and hateful undertones; filled with anger not passion, filled with people unwilling to actually communicate and instead just talk at - the question that is left to ask: why would I want to be a part of that?

Why do any of us want to be a part of that?  I can't imagine that anyone who left last weeks meeting, no matter your "side" felt good about the debate (I dare not say conversation).  Let alone looks forward to further discussion of this within their presbytery or churches.

I just continue to pray for our churches but most of all those young people who are trying to understand their own role in a denomination that for now feeds into everything the secular world proclaims is "wrong" with the churches. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

we are too familiar

There are two texts that are coming together for this blog post today the first is a quote I found on another blog:
"Christians in the west have largely neglected what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The vast majority of Western Christians are church members, pew fillers, hymn singers, sermon tasters, Bible readers, even born again believers or spirit filled charismatics - but not true disciples of Jesus". Found in Discipleship by David Watson, page 16
And the other is Psalm 37 from the Psalm Now book (which you can find on the side of this blog).
What my blog is coming down to today is the idea that Christ has become to “known” in our world.  That people think they know what it means to be “Christian” or a “follower of Christ” and in their assumptions we have come to be a country far less Christian then we think.  Basically what I’m saying is that in being American we have created our own religion that I am not sure Christ would recognize even his own cornerstones.
That might seem harsh.  But I am really struck by the amount of unholy behavior that those in every aspects of the Christian faith do in the name of God. But more so, as a liberal-ish, progressive-ish, female pastor I really dislike the box that I get placed in and the awkward conversations that I have.
Just recently, I met a woman whom I had to share a common space with – so of course we began talking.  At first, she openly talked about this other woman whom I assumed was a partner/spouse.  As soon as she found out that I was a pastor, she began to talk about other things.  When I tried to revert the conversation back to her partner, she denied the relationship.   In some awkward moments of expressing my views on homosexuality, we sort-of moved beyond this and began open dialogue again.  I was frustrated in that our conversation was impeded by her perception of “Christianity.”
It isn’t just that there are more progressive people out there.  It isn’t just that there are people open to different types of worship – and yet still follow Christ.  The problem isn’t that these people don’t exist.  The problem is that people believe they know what it means to be Christian. 
I was reading some study somewhere on the internet about the perceptions that people have about people who follow different faiths – Buddhist are seen as more enlightened, without them even opening their month.  But Christians are seen as bigamists, closed minded and ignorant. 
And the problem isn’t that these perceptions are OUT there – the problem is that time and time again they get proven right.  That in our attempt to be the Holiest – we have failed to actually be Holy.  In our attempt to fully and with our whole beings worship and follow Christ, we have failed to actually hear God’s voice. 
As a Christian and as part of the world of Christians, we need to start truly examining ourselves and Christ.  We need to request that people forget what they think they know and come to the Bible anew, with open minds and hearts to truly experience Christ.  And to become familiar not with what Christianity has done to Christ’s message but to get to know Jesus, the man, who came to save humanity!