Monday, July 26, 2010

Intolerant of Intolerance

Yea I'm getting intolerant of intolerance. I got another one of those "anti-Islam" e mails today full of incorrect assertions and seething with intolerance. The Internet is fine sometimes but when it is used to spread fear and ignorance in the name of free access or "free speech" somebody needs to say "stop."

I liked the article in the paper today that tells of an "inter-faith" camp where kids come together and share their lives and their faith perspectives. There were Baptists, Methodists, Muslims, Hindus, and a Unitarian or two. They did not "back off" their beliefs or water them down, they simply spent time together, shared worship together, and listened to each other.

The Jesus I believe in would have liked that gathering of young people. Where did we Christians get the idea that to claim our faith as unique and wonderful means that we condemn those who seek God on a different path? I know, I know there are a few passages of scripture that if interpreted as some chose to see them seem to exclude anyone who does not see Jesus "our" way.

Well, like dear old Mary Chapin Carpenter sings, "I'll take my chances" by saying that the intolerance of such positions is not Christian. I like the way Eugene Peterson translates Jesus' message in his version of the bible known as "The Message"...He has Jesus say in Matthew 7, "Knowing the correct password, saying Master, Master for instance isn't going to get you anywhere with me...doing my Father's will is what is important...(to me) you missed the boat...all you did was make yourself important. You don't impress me one bit."

We need to learn to listen, live together, appreciate each other's faith, and let Jesus do the sorting out. That wheat and weeds parable he told is a good analogy of how we need to learn that we are not good "sorters" when it comes to judging what is "wheat" and what is "weed."

I have some dear folk who are leaving our church now because they want more certainty and do not like the questions that are raised when one is open to a God who is really big. I understand their need for a black and white world where a certain view of faith is fixed and prescribed. They also want a Bible where there are no questions or different interpretations. I wish them well but I could not go where they wanted to go much less lead them as a pastor to that place of certainty.

The spirit and love "of" Christ is bigger than the religion "about" Christ. What do we really think that the power that overcame death one morning wants us to do in a world where so many people differ in their views of faith and God? Are we to build walls or bridges?

We can still hold to the uniqueness of our faith without condemning those who walk a different path. We can especially listen to the "truths" about other faiths without spreading false realities based upon a lack of understanding. Most of what comes out of the mouths of "radical Islamists" is a complete misconstruing of that faith just as some of what I hear coming out of the mouths of certain "Christians" is nothing I want a part of. (See, I'm intolerant of intolerance...told you.)

In Isaiah God makes an offer that we need to take up: "Come let us reason together." Religion that is based on fear is usually unhealthy religion. God is at work in all sorts of places in this world. Those of us who claim the title, "Christian" must be careful not to think of it as an exclusive "password" that get us in while we claim that other are left out.

The one who gave us this marvelous faith cautions us not to make our spiritual journey a seeking after a password but a following of a "way." That "way" is a way of love, compassion, attentiveness to others...especially those with whom we disagree, and a joining with God in the healing of the nations.


Monday, July 19, 2010

When Preachers Lose Faith

That was the title of the recent article in the newspaper. I suppose those who read it and who were not one of "us clergy" probably thought those words have the same ring as a life insurance salesperson who does not have their own policy, does not pay a premium, and in fact does not really believe in life insurance. Would you invest with such a person?

We who "wear the robes" and use the lingo read that article with different eyes. We know that using the language does not mean that we always live the language. Hey, listen I understand that you do not want your personal trainer to have a "spare tire" around his or her middle section so you probably do not want your pastor to....well...have doubts.

Well don't get too close. You might discover the "man behind the curtain" (or woman of course) does in fact have some doubts. I am sure you will find a different variety of doubts depending on the individual clergy but if you peer behind the robe and the ritual you'll find some garden variety uncertainties.

I remember a certain person in one of my churches being very disappointed when one of her former pastors "crashed and burned." It seems he used poor judgment when it came to hanging around a certain woman. He barely survived and was allowed to stay in ministry but he was moved and given a much smaller church. This disappointed woman simply said to me after sharing her sadness at his "failings", "Well, I suppose ministers are human too."

I turned to her and said, "If you only knew how human it would scare you." She seemed startled.
Do you folks out there in the blog-0-sphere think that when we get ordained that we go through some kind of security check point that somehow renders us well...not human? Check out the David story in the bible. Old David was "chosen of God" to be the leader but wow was he ever human. Seems he could write wonderful lyrics that later became Psalms but he could also bribe, steal, and become the material for afternoon soap-operas with that Bathsheba affair.

Yea, we're human alright, real human. So you might suppose we have doubts and even crises of know like those people we try to serve and care for. We did not receive an inoculation against the ups and downs of the spiritual journey. We are on the road, the same road as the "flock" we attempt to shepherd.

I've written a book about all this because I know that we who spend so much time giving other people water can become thirsty ourselves if we are not careful. I've learned the hard way that my weekly preparation and study for the sermon is "not" my spiritual stop by the well for is my "job." It is up to me to stop by the well for just drink for me...not my people...for me. Handling the water is not drinking the water.

So...shock and awe...we doubt at times. But take heart, in the midst of all those doubts is the reality of what Alan Jones, one of us, taught me. He said, "The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty." If you are certain and sure of everything you do not need that faith that often times has to take a leap or believe in spite of rather than because of...

I wonder if the guy who responded to Jesus that day and said, "I believe Lord, help my unbelief," was investigating being a minister? In the valley of doubt, dark as it is, guess who is present...a shepherd..."the" shepherd...thank God.

Bless you,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Bush Full of Butterflies

We two legged creatures seem fascinated with the winged wonders known as butterflies. It may because they literally squeeze time in front of our very eyes. If one pays attention the sequence of life can be condensed for observation.

In a time span that at most is a year an egg on a leaf becomes a caterpillar that becomes a cocoon that becomes the colorful winged creatures that now cover the three "butterfly bushes" in our backyard. These butterflies seem to be really having a good time. They glide from flower to flower while absorbing the sweet substance that keeps them flying.

All this joy lasts on average "two weeks." Some butterflies only live five days. Monarchs get as much as an extra year. We get to watch all of this. We have a little longer so we become the observers of their lives.

Relatively speaking this tiny speck of dust we inhabit is to "the" cosmic observer a bush full of butterflies. We have our own kind of "seed" and for a while inhabit a warm dark space which resembles a cocoon. The difference is that we do not do our own spinning. Our warm hiding space lasted about nine months and all was taken care of by someone called, "mother."

We did, however, burst forth from that time of development and stretch our "wings" so that we might explore the new light around us. Our pace was of course much slower. We were not suddenly able to dance from flower to flower like our nature's kin. Perhaps they are more advanced than we are.

They seem so eager to enjoy the flowers of the butterfly bush. Is it because they know they have so little time?

Long ago a poet came up with a phrase, "So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I wonder. Are we the wise ones or is it the butterflies? They seem to know how special every day is. There's is a dance of joy.

We are the "observers" who get to watch "their time" and get to see it end. Listen this day and perhaps in the breeze there will be words whispered by that cosmic observer: "Your days are like the butterfly only you seem so unaware of it."

Someone who said he came directly from the "studio" of that cosmic observer once commented to a busy-minded group of followers, "Consider the lilies." I think he meant, "Pay attention, now...Where are you going so fast? Enjoy each individual flower and each individual day."

So today I will take a few "longer" moments and observe the bush full of butterflies and realize there is one who observes me...and I will say, "Thank you for the time."

Bless you

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mourning for the Death of the Internet

OK I'm sort of lost between two worlds. Part of me is a poet-Renaissance-kind of guy who loves to ponder. Then there is the part of me that has one foot in the "tech" world. After all I'm doing this blog thing but I'm lost in the I-Phone stuff and part of me does not like the twitter effect that seems to be doing in some forms of "real" communication and community. So, I'm lost.

I'm not sure which part of me found amusement at what popped up as I logged on today. There was the face of "Prince" with the words, "Prince says the Internet is dead." I'm not a Prince fan so I do not even know what it means when the next line says, "the artist formerly known as Prince." So the guy has had some kind of metamorphosis but he's... well still Prince sort of.

Anyway where I'm going with this, I think, is the star/celebrity world we seem to live in where stuff like the Lebron James phenomenon grows in the fertile soil of a media-tech-driven feeding frenzy kind of atmosphere. I'm not sure how a guy like Lebron or Prince or whoever he is today keeps any kind of perspective. But then maybe they don't and that is the problem.

Fame has always been a blessing and a curse. Now the Internet and fast paced broad based information sharing fuels the fame flame. Hey, I like that, "fame flame." You can quote me. I did not google the phrase so I might not be original but until I do it's original for now.

Fame and idolatry are first cousins. As I understand it first cousins are not supposed to "get married" or there is trouble ahead. I rest my case on that one.

So for now I will not mourn the announced death of the Internet. I seem to have a love-hate relationship with it. E mails are helpful and demonic at the same time...know what I mean? Too much of a good thing is a bad thing...

I'm not sure what all the above was about, but after all it's a blog. I guess I wanted to "say" something before the line went dead. After all Prince sounded the call and he's Prince..or at least used to be.

Bless you,
Jody...the blogger formerly known as Jody

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Inserting God

Ah what a country. Recently a group of atheist got together and pooled their resources to put up a billboard reading "One nation Indivisible." They wanted to make a point that the original Pledge of Allegiance did not include the words "under God."

The huge sign ended up being placed on none other than Billy Graham Blvd. The "don't insert God into my life or my pledge" group claimed innocence at the placement of the billboard and "pledged" that they were not trying to do the "in your face" kind of thing by putting their protest on the road named for a guy who spent his life putting God into most everything. The atheist simply said it was "the cheapest place" to put their no-God advertisement.

The saga continued a few nights after the sign went up. Some folks figured out a way to get high up using evidently two ladders (figure that out) and spray painted the words "under God" just below the atheists proud words. The "under God" graffiti had an arrow pointing upward just in case folks did not get the need for the insertion.

So now we have clandestine God inserters roaming about with spray-paint cans. I suppose that you could consider this act as one of "defacing" the professionally done billboard.

I wonder if God needs this kind of help or if there is a willing suspension of the rules to allow for graffiti if is in the "name of Almighty?" I suppose God doesn't mind being "inserted" when left out but then from what I've seen God is used to being left out of a lot of things.

We used to insert God into public school prayers and before High School football games until the "not in my back yard" atheists lobby made enough noise to get the High Court's attention. God was "overruled" or at least the insertion of God was. I'm personally convinced that omitting "school prayer" and pep-rally type prayers are not the real problems when it comes to the leaving God out issue.

Leaving God out of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag might be a "sign" of the moral decay around us or it might just be full of sound and furry signifying not much of anything. I wish the pro-God sign painters would have inserted the words "feed the hungry" or "work for peace" to leave passer-by's scratching their heads in order to figure out why those words were inserted.

Such graffiti might lead the observers to a God who is more concerned with justice and mercy than with whether his/her name is left out of a pledge. Let's insert God into where God really needs to be: in the messy stuff of life where balance is needed when it comes to what America is really all about.

Where did I put that spray-paint can?