Last Thursday Doug Pagitt and I hosted an event called Spirituality Pub: Faith & Emergence.
Well, he did most of the talking during the presentation part. But I did open up the event (among other things organize and take care of location logistics) and a couple wonderful parts of the evening came from a couple other folks, including those who stayed for the “conversation” piece during the 2nd half. Michael Toy read a couple poignant original poems and Adele Sakler shared some of her struggles with Christianity and yet why she still hangs around progressive Christians.
Doug spent most of his talk discussing faith and spirituality from “the ground up” and as something pulling us together, regardless of how one labels it. For a Christian, one would call it the Holy Spirit at work or God being greater and yet also smaller as the undeniable fabric we all live in, from atoms in our bodies to the atoms in the stars and a pulse transmitted through high tech scientific devices around the world.
What also is coming to the surface in the West, even among people of other religions or spiritual claims, is a humility and community of care for one another, of engaging someone on their terms, by drawing them in to
relationship and even perhaps one’s understanding of God as opposed to being forced to relationship and one way of thinking, believing, behaving or even being.
I had a wonderful evening connecting with people from all over Northern California interested in a friendly and yet throughly rich approach to being people of Spirit. We at The WordHouse are already thinking of hosting similar events in the future on faith and its intersection with societal concerns. Maybe Doug will be running another 50 miler soon in Nor Cal and will need another necessary distraction?
I recently saw a video that awhile ago I might have really liked. Like pump my fist and exclaim “yes” kind of like. The message was a call to put away whatever differences we might have with others and just worship Jesus in song together.
As someone who typically thinks ambiguity is beautiful and honest, believes a moderate is someone often honest with complex contexts and is fine with opposing viewpoints and understands their validity, I was left short. This sentiment seemed contrived. It smacked of insincerity and embracing irresponsibility.
As this video sincerely invited people to worship Jesus in song by getting them to forget their differences, I realized he wasn’t really saying much of anything at all, or perhaps even worse. Unbeknownst to him, he could be endorsing some to take evil lightly. That sounds weird, how could a call to worship Jesus, the Prince of Peace, lead to not taking evil seriously? But if our worship of Jesus doesn’t lead us to stand up to or willingly take the heat of oppression here and right now, it is both worthless and harmful. Of course it’s a video with a specific message, so it can only say so much. Perhaps it’s part of the deal when listening and allowing for different voices to be heard and respecting their contexts, attempting to understand and grow from their insights and even getting lost in the shuffle. But if something greases the wheels towards complacency in dealing with oppression and evil in our world, we better get off those tracks quickly.
Some of us will be celebrating Jesus’ few days leading up to his execution, his death and then rising again to new life. I am struck by how we may lose meaning, if not all meaning, if we don’t acknowledge the severity of what may have been happening here in this three-part harmony. If Jesus’ innocent public killing is not some sort of indictment on humanity’s atrocities, ugliness and evil ways, and implicate people in his death, I’m not sure it’s worth claiming to call oneself a follower of Jesus.
I guess what I’m saying is this. We can’t fully enjoy the resurrection and whatever grace and freedom we might receive if we don’t ourselves know in some way that we are either a part of the crowds yelling “Crucify him! Crucify him!” and humbly break down and beat our chests in anguish OR that Jesus is actually like me in suffering at the hands of oppression and evil structures that rob dignity and mar the image of God in each of us and love him and thank him for providing hope. And maybe we realize that we embody both.
When we recognize how we’re intertwined with the cross of Jesus in either of those scenarios, we then might experience the power of his new life and in grace and truth respond in kind to Jesus – in song or life.
So if you ask me to join you in worship without taking the world’s and my unjust suffering or complicity in it seriously, it’s impossible for us to truly worship Jesus.
Everyday huge amounts of people go hungry. Not just in drought afflicted areas across the earth, but here in the United States. If all was right in the world and with humanity, this wouldn’t happen. For some to go hungry while others are well fed is evil. In God’s kingdom and in the future desired reality of God, hunger will be no more. All who are hungry will be filled; all will have a place at the heavenly banquet.
Certainly there are folks who take advantage, in a selfishly cruel sense, of the goodness of others like this food closet at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Midtown. But an offer of a hand up, or at least some groceries, remains. There’s too much evil in the world not to try and do good.
What a beautiful day, what a wonder. The warming sun reflects God’s goodness on all. The chilly air is not the only experience this morning. No, there is warmth, there is hope.
The sun this morning hit me like a shock. I wasn’t expecting to feel its warmth as I stepped out from the coolness of our apartment leftover from the night before. Lent is a reminder of the sudden goodness that can come to the world’s darkness – the coming alongside suffering and overcoming evil done by Jesus the Christ.
Today I have felt the need for rest and rejuvenation. Or retreat and solitude. Our Midtown community of The WordHouse has been focusing on spiritual disciplines or practices during its worship gatherings. This is my world.
So right now, I’m under a blanket in our living room. I’m also staying connected to others, not including my thoughts of them, through Social media and the occasional text. Perhaps a bit too much, as I’ve been distracted by these media from my impromptu retreat. But it’s not all bad from where I sit. I just need to close my eyes, pray, and rest.
Broken, yet settled beautifully into and arising from the earth. This can be said of the clay pot and the flowers growing in its center.
Where we end up, or certainly where we find ourselves, might not be where we planned or hoped. But that doesn’t mean beauty and growth cannot come from the brokenness we have encountered along the way. Perhaps this is the means of authentic beauty and life well lived, one that, in spite of the atrocities of life, goodness still comes up out of the mess.
To me, this broken and beautiful image portrays the good news of Jesus Christ.
Marshall School. Behind a cyclone fence for being not up to code. Surely this isn’t right. What a waste of resources. What a waste of space, a half-block behind a metal fence in the heart of Sacramento.
With justice/injustice, there are so many opposing views and layers of context and meaning. What’s right? What’s wrong? Perhaps, truly, only God knows. But surely how things are currently in this particular area of Sacramento is not right.