Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Different Jesus
I have this image of Jesus walking around looking at the different "forms" of religion we have created with his name attached to them. We who claim to follow this simple Galilean do everything from chanting to handling snakes. We shout alleluia and others of us remain quiet for days...waiting. Jesus followers wave flags and shout "God bless America," and others who follow the Prince of Peace carry signs protesting what America does.
Will the "real" Jesus please stand up? Or is it best said, "Will the real Christianity please stand up? What is real faith? Is it like those packages that read, "Contains real cheese." O my, what exactly is fake cheese. I think I've tasted the fake stuff and some of it is actually pretty good. Those ingredients or additives or whatever it is that tastes like cheese can fool not only my eyes but my taste buds.
Is that the way it is with some forms of the Jesus' faith? It looks pretty on the outside. It is palatable. It is cheaper. But, it's not "real."
If Jesus walked around doing a survey of the many forms of Christianity today what would be the results of his study? What would be on his check-list? I'll take a guess knowing that when he gets to me on the survey I'm up for being held to the "real" test too.
On this list might be "How much are you risking for me?" "When was the last time you forgave somebody." "How long is your enemies list?" "Who is welcomed when you worship in my name?" "When you serve 'my supper' who comes to eat?" "Do you know what I meant when I said, 'When you love the least of these, you love me?'" "When you worship me what are you worshiping...the music..the minister...the building...the denomination/the church...or me?" "How has following me changed the way you love?" (Okay blog reader...if you are out there..what do you think would be on Jesus' list?)
My friend Ed Kilbourne sings a song entitled, "A Different Jesus." The one singing the song encounters an "in your face" Jesus person, a TV preacher, and some folks using Jesus' name to sell books (oops that could be me of late), promoting records (not a chance/I can't sing but most of you know that by now) and of course politicians. Finally the person trying to figure out who this Jesus is they keep talking about responds in the chorus. The chorus simply says:
I think it must have been a different Jesus, the one I meet when I was just a child
I thought I recognized the name but the one I know could not have changed that much
You'll find he's always been the same old Jesus
He hasn't changed in spite of what we've heard
Still a friend of sinners everywhere, I never met a man who cared so much

O one whose name we use so often, help us know the "real" you. For you are deeper and bigger than any of the shapes we give to you. Your love is broader than our narrow denominations and your seeking grace is more expansive than our many styles of worshiping you. May your penetrating love make us "real" in our loving.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Bone Collector
Did you see in the press release from the Vatican that according to carbon dating the bones in the tomb of St Paul are St Paul? I wonder if they found the "thorn in the flesh" that Paul talked about buried along with him? But then of course Paul was talking figuratively about that infirmity he endured that God seemed not to deliver him from.
Yesterday after the 11:00 service I offered a time of healing and anointing. I expected 5 or 10 people. Over 50 came. There are a lot of "thorns in the flesh" out there. I am still praying for those dear people who knelt in front of me as I made the sign of the cross on their waiting foreheads with the words, "May God's healing grace be upon your life." It is always overwhelming for me to share this time of healing with people.
I have learned that I am not in charge of what happens after people arise from their posture of prayer but I know that God always gives some form of grace and healing. Paul "in his bones" did not quite understand why God did not deliver him from his own thorn in the flesh but he struggled to believe in spite of the suffering he endured. Paul seemed to experience a form of healing grace even though he was not "cured."
This same man whose bones now for sure lie somewhere beneath some monument later wrote that "now" we only see through a glass darkly but one day we shall see "face to face" and we shall know as we have been known. Until then, "May God's healing grace be upon your life."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Edge of Life
Saw two people today who are on "the edge" of life. It is that edge between this life and the next. They're both tired.
My grandma said it best when she told me she was ready to "go home." I knew what she meant but I responded, "I know grandma but I hate to loose you." She squeezed my hand and simply said, "Boy, I don't want to out-live myself."
O God of all the edges of life, hold these dear people and all those on the edge in your loving hands. You are the one who turns our darkness into light. You are there all the time but it seems you are very present when we get to those "edges."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rehearsing Marriage?
I'm getting ready to go upstairs and do a wedding rehearsal. I smile a bit knowing that while one can rehearse for a wedding you can't really rehearse for a marriage. The couple whose faces I will look into in a few minutes will be hopefully starry eyed idealists. That is the way it is and should be. What they do not yet know is how much work is needed for a marriage to make it.

Rehearsing for a wedding is easy. Marriage is hard and it is supposed to be. Rehearsing does not do much good. Marriage is learning as you go. If you "fall in love" what happens when you "get up?" That's called marriage.

So I'll have a prayer with them before they "rehearse" and if they remember what I told them earlier when I met with them I'll hope that they will learn early on that to stay married they'll need God, work, courage, and all the help they can get. Relationships are wonderful, messy, mysterious, and require investment and the learned skill of forgiveness.

Well, better quit writing and go "rehearse." This is interesting work I do, you know. I get to step into people's lives at all kinds of "pivotal" moments....births, baptisms, tragedy, questioning, instances of shared wonder, and death. It's interesting, joyful, challenging work this ministry we are "called into." And to tell you the truth it can't be rehearsed....

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Thought for today
Yea he messed up big time. The latest public figure to fall on his own sword is Governor Sanford. The whole situation is sad enough without people piling on with all kinds of judgements. If you want to go the depth psychology route you can see the shadow theory of personality exemplified in what this man did. The "shadow" theory says that each of us has a shadow side of our selves that we bury in our unconscious basement. If often comes out to play in our sleep. Other times we project our shadow onto others. This theory of personality states that often the most judgemental among us are the ones with the darkest shadows. Judgemental attitudes are often the result of casting shadows toward others because we fear the darkness in ourselves. Unfortunately religious people have a reputation for doing this often.

What must be understood is that our shadow is part of our power. It can also drive the good in us if it is "mastered" and understood. In other words if you do not know the shape of your shadow your shadow will shape you.

Powerful people usually have deep shadows. Politicians "take risks" and therefore their shadows become accustomed to such risks and they thrive on the feelings of power. Mix this with privilege and access and the tiredness and vulnerability that comes with being a public figure and you have a recipe for disaster.

If you want to go farther back than depth psychology go to Romans 8: 12 where Paul talks about walking in the ways of "the flesh" or the ways of "the spirit." There is a battle going on in each of us between the powers and urges of the flesh and our spiritual nature. The truth is that unlike the "dualism" that develops around such thinking, we are in fact a mixture of flesh and spirit. Spirit mixed with flesh mixed with the shadow can make for very complex spiritual creature of the flesh.

One reason to take the "internal spiritual" journey is to embrace that we all have a shadow. Here's the deal, God already knows the shape of our shadow. We do not have to hide it in our basement. God wants us to understand it and its power. The Governor of South Carlina we now know is a very "fleshy" man. We are all very fleshy people and we better sure well know it.

The God of light wants to help us not so much judge us. Don't hide from your shadow but know it. You don't have to go telling everybody about it but if you don't understand its power you could end up like Mr. Sanford in front of the lights having to tell it all.

Old Paul may have not been a depth psychologist but he was right when he said, "to walk by the flesh alone can lead to 'death.'" ....Shine your light into our lives, O great God of light, not so much that the shadows might flee but that we might know and understand them as you know and understand us....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Well, day two of blogging. I hope my blogging does not resemble my jogging or my words will get slower and older before your very eyes. Ah, enough of that. Now for the thought for today:

The Service of Morning Prayer in the back of our hymnal begins with these words, "New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world." As many of you know my wife Betsy loves to grow, hybridize, and share daylilie's. She tirelessly tends the soil, weeds, dead-heads, and cherishes her daylilie's.

Every morning during the peak season, which is short, she rises early and eagerly goes out to see "who" is blooming. Yes, her lilies are personal to her. Each one has a name, either given by the one she obtained the lilly from or bestowed by Betsy if the Lilly is a result of her hybridizing. You see if you grow a "seedling" you get the right to name it.

A day lily is just that. It only blooms for one day. "New every morning is your love, great God of light," could be the patron prayer of those who love and grow daylilies. I am reminded that each of us only has one day. That is today.

We do not remember the day of our "planting" but the one who gently placed us in the soil of life does remember it. The Creator also remembers the day of our watering, a moment we call Baptism. In our scriptures it says that to God a thousand years is but as a day. Ah, we are day lillies. We have our day in the sun. Each day, no matter how many or how few we have, is but a "day" to God.

For the Master Gardener time is not as it is to us. Each day is eternity. "So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Your parents may have given you a name that was spoken at your baptism but before that there was one who truly named you and who truly knows you....every day...one day at a time....for all eternity.

So....as is used too often..I say in a new way to you, "Have a good day...bloom where you are planted..."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Never Thought I Would Do It!

Well, Rosmary Banks, our dear Communications Director just left my office with the news that I am now a "Blogger." I don't feel any different. Maybe it will take a while. Will I wake up at 3:00 am and have a rash or something. I mean no one yet knows the long terms effects of Blogging. Heck, I do not even know the short term effects. What am I saying (see it's already doing something to me) I barely know what a Blog is...but here goes.

Yes, I'm going to Blog. I've gone over to the Dark Side or something. Mr Poet-not too keen on technology-Fear of Being Lost While Making Excellent Time-Jody, figures that I need to share more of "me" with "you." And give you a chance to share more of "you" with "me." So, I've been convinced by those who know the "new world" better than me that one way to do this is to have a Blog.

What I will do, I think, is try to share at least a kind of thought or pondering of the day most days. I'm not promising I'll post a blog every day since you and me need a day off or days off but for now I'll try to post something from inside of me to the outside world. I welcome, I think, your comments.

In the new world of Face Book, Blogging, Twitter (I've been told that's next) if one wants to share thoughts that hopefully will be helpful then..well...one has to "get with the program." So here goes the blog.

First of all you probably do not know that I'm shy. What, the guy up in front of 1200 or so people most every Sunday is shy? The guy who suddenly broke into a chorus of "Blue Moon" a couple of Sunday's ago when given a hand-held mic when his wireless failed is shy? (By the way I sitll do not know what got into me that day at the 11:00 service when I started singing Blue Moon and kept going...I mean I was in the middle of a sermon for heaven's sake...God probably is thinking just now, "Leave heaven out of this." But I did it probably upon retrospect because my 6th grade teacher put on my report card that, "Jody will never amount to anything unless he quits showing off.") Back to "shy"....I was shy in the 6th grade and that is "why" I was the class clown. It was my way of surviving.

So, yes I'm shy. Even though my wife does not like me to say it, I'm a rather extreme introvert who is a public figure. Last time I checked there are over 3,500 in this congregation. So I do not have time to be shy, but at least I thought you ought to know who is behind the robe.

I do pretty good with the introvert/shy thing because I know I am to be a pastor. Pator's can't be too shy if they want to be "with the sheep." So most of the time God helps me overcome my shyness. My love for sharing the "old story" also helps me step over my shy nature. When I see you listen and engage what I offer it makes my heart sing. I do my best working with people one on one. That should not suprise you now that you know my "secret." Wow this blog thing is working on me. I better stop before I "tell all."

Anyway. Here is my thought for today. Life is complicated and maybe getting more complicated with all the technology and the recent economic challenges. The God I believe in is bigger than our immediate situation. This may be a big deal to us but God has seen a lot and in God's "mind" this is but a blip on the screen....but..."we" are never a blip on the screen. God really knows our names. I'm not just making that up because it sounds good and comforting. I believe it. Here is a spontaneous poem...my first blog poem:
O One who knows me beyond knowing
grant me the assurance that
in moments when certainty is fleeting
you are the source
you are underneath the questions
you are the answers that will be
You are the One who smiled at my birth
and you weep when pain surrounds

The word "God" is too small for you...
But it will do for now

Whatever is going on with you right now God knows it and cares about it. Nothing is going to happen that God cannot handle. Faith is more about trust than it is about "believing" or assent. That' enough of a blog for now...maybe its too much...more later. I need to go put some cream on my rash.