Friday, October 27, 2006

Last Week and This Sunday

Bobby moved his sculpting work into our space . . . which gave us a great opportunity to have regular morning prayer each day at 8:30 am. We gather in the sanctuary, light a Christ candle, and pray the hours. Anyone is welcome to drop in to pray with us. I believe that I need the rhythm that such discipline produces.

Father William presided over our holy communion last Sunday, and was such a blessing. His presence and manner completely deconstructed any sense of pomp that one might have assumed because of this vestments. He had a distinct joy and lightness of spirit in leading us through the breaking of bread.

Last Sunday morning I spoke on this text: I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. John 17:26

I focused on the promise of Jesus to continue the work of making the Father known to us, encouraging us to open ourselves to this ongoing work of Christ in us. The end, of course, is that the love of God will be rooted in our hearts, and Christ himself will be formed in us.

This Sunday, I plan to take up this word of Jesus: the one who feeds on me will live because of me. John 6:57. Christ was no steely logician. He was not an empiricist. He did not look at life, God, and the world through a modern perspective. Jesus was a mystic who spoke about the mystery of coming into real union with God.

With the discrediting of the scientific worldview as a sufficient and adequate way of interpreting reality, and the corresponding epistemological shift, Christ's mystical sayings take on more of their original depth and mystery, eschewing the flat meanings modernity imposed. Jesus is certainly not saying pray a sinner's prayer or believe in me and you will go to heaven as a reward. He says I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. Our life in Christ is the same essentially as his life in the Father. There is mystery and spiritual union here . . . divine stirrings and grace that modernity can never grasp.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Faith and the Coming Elections

Christians who view their political choices as a simple matter of faith have a problem.

A president that is anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage, but pro-torture, detention without trial, and mistreatment of the nation's enemies seems to deeply challenge the idea that this administration is any more Christian than previous ones.

Can we call for respecting the humanity of fetuses but not of terrorists? If it is wrong to abort a fetus, is it wrong to treat full-grown humans inhumanely? Seems to me like being "pro-life" means being pro all life. All life is sacred - even the lives of my enemies.

On the other hand, this president isn't more non-Christian than previous ones. Chavez is wrong. To say that Bush is a Christian is accurate. To say that his presidency is Christian - that would associate God with some things I know God to abhor.

The fact is that Bush is head of state, not head of a church. Bush isn't a Christian president. No presidents have been. No president will ever be able to run this country by the Sermon on the Mount. The country is run according to the Constitution.

America isn't a Christian nation and never has been (ask the native Americans). The presidency is a civil office, and America is a nation.

Some of our presidents have been better statemen, wiser, better servants of the people, than others. Sometimes America has acted well in world affairs, and sometimes acted poorly.

I am not an advocate of Christians having nothing to do with society's governance . . . of being aloof. We also cannot afford, as believers, to baptize certain candidates, a particular party, or exclusively focus on a few issues. People of faith and careful thought will differ on how to participate and address what is happening in our society and the world.

I think that Christans will have much to weigh, many subjects to consider in the coming elections, and won't be able to simply vote for candidates who are Christians or a particular party.

And after we vote . . . we will still have much to do in our world that governing authorities can never do.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Either/Or ways of thinking assume, maybe correctly, that ideas or thoughts can be stated carefully enough to be either correct or incorrect. I know God can certainly be that precise. However, I truly doubt that I am ever able to reach that level of clarity and comprehensiveness in what I say. You should take that as a warning about this post!

Typically, when I say anything I am acutely aware that so much more could be said, and that I am leaving some things unsaid.

When I am teaching, often someone will raise a point that they believe contradicts what I am saying. I know it may appear that I just want to agree . . . but rarely has anyone ever said anything that didn't have some element of truth - usually describing part of the subject that I was not and could not address. I can usually affirm such statements, because the complexity of everything means that either/or is rarely the case.

I had that type of discussion last night about the reality of evil - is there a definite evil being called Satan? To some this might seem clear, there either is or there isn't . . . and scripture definitely talks about such a being.

But here's the complexity: we know scripture is truthful about God's nature and our realities, but how literal is it as it talks about existence, God, and humankind? The language used is often representative and may more or less be literally true. We recognize that in talking about God. God is no rock, though He is called one.

I am comfortable with evil being personified in a being, a fallen angel . . . but am also sympathetic to those who would think of evil as more the absence of God, and think less that there is an actual being who is the leader of darkness. Such people might think of Satan as a useful way of understanding the way evil besets us . . . as if there is a malevolent being who acts like a roaring lion trying to eat us.

I am comfortable with anyone who believes firmly in a definite, personal being called the Devil. I am also comfortable with those who might not. I can be comfortable with contradictory ideas because there is enough complexity to make me uncertain absolutely of either option.

My concern is that neither understanding lead to a lite view of temptation, our own vulnerability to fall into temptation, or the reality of something that is most definitely not God. How we live with regard to God and what is not God is more important than how we conceive of the darkness - as absence or malevolent presence.

There is an either/or reality on this matter . . . but I am okay knowing that God knows it even when I don't. This is why I believe that all Christian community is based on a unity that God gives, not on a unity of understanding that we achieve.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sex: Legalistic or Formative

Okay . . . it is way too easy to point out imperfections. Since the worst expression of my own character is to be overly critical, I have to guard against that.

Maybe this can be redemptive and not merely harsh.

I was sent a link to a preacher's comments on how Christians ought to be having 'hot sex'. The article and a video clip from his appearance on a morning show are there for anyone interested.

My concern is that his approach is a legalistic one - he identifies what is banned, and then encourages everything that is 'legal' biblically. The reasoning put in Aristotelian terms is like this:
1. Strong marriages are good.
2. 'Hot sex' contributes to strong marriages.
3. Therefore, Christians ought to be having 'hot sex' as long as they don't do one of the no-no's (no one but your spouse, no animals, and no one gets hurt).

This leads to some interesting places, such as his assertion that vibrators are good. No animals, but machines are okay. What about blow up dolls?

I think the approach is spiritually legalistic and shallow. What if sex is spiritually formative, and our guide to sexual relations is not merely what is legal, but what is transformative and expressive of God's nature?

One real danger is the pursuit of more and more pleasure and excitement. At some point, everything legal becomes 'boring'. His 'hot sex' is only 'hot' because at least some of those he is talking to haven't been doing some of what he advocates. But his 'hot sex' will cease to be 'hot' after a while, and then only something new will spice up the relationship again.

Maybe 'hot sex' isn't about positions, machines, techniques, but spiritual connection - with God and one's spouse.

Some were excited to see one of "their" preachers on a national TV show, but actually I am embarrassed at the legalistic thinking displayed. I am also concerned over the direction that is encouraged - more excitement rather than deeper spirituality. Actually, nothing is 'hotter' than spirituality.