Friday, December 08, 2006
Thursday, November 30, 2006
The theme of Advent as a whole is that somehow God is coming, God
will save, and that is a source of hope.
It's not a message that works as a practical analysis in our fairly
secular religious context. Consider how we see the pain of the world
- or choose not to see it. We easily despair because governments and
institutions; people aren't fixing it. We ourselves don't even want
to think about prisons, hungry persons, or people with no prospects
because there is so little that any one of us can do, it seems. This
is despair. More gently, the response someone like me proposes,
which is that we can act within our "sphere of influence", is a make-
do posture. It is reasonable but it can limit our effectiveness by
limiting our dreaming. Inaction becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,
if you will. That is, “I can't help, no single person like me can, so
I don't try and, see, I didn't help, just like I predicted.”
What answer do we have? Well, in Advent, we say that God is coming
and God is going to save. If that is going to happen, then the cause
is not lost! We can look forward to that day with happy
expectation. At least, we who are really powerless can look forward
to this day of saving. Consider a Haitian teenager who is not gifted
with talent, charm, unusual intelligence, looks, or the ability to
throw a baseball 95 miles per hour. That person would really look
forward to the possibilities brought by a saving God, a Christ. Then
what of the others of us who do have gifts of one sort or another,
who do have expectations, who are doing well? For us, the Advent
message is that our efforts to liberate, to feed, to get to know, to
empower, to clothe, and to heal; even our meager efforts will not be
ineffective. We can throw off despair because we expect a God who
works with people, who sees people as the way things get done; a God
who is a creator, yes, but a co-creator who expects to find us busy
doing the right things. We expect a God who, in our story, comes as
a needy person. Don’t you see? The least of us could bring a baby
something to help keep warm, some added bit of protection, some
little gift. The least of us could play our drum.
That's what we mean by hope in Advent.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Darling, sing this song in the morning of a day so rare.
The worst had come unseen; it was all despair.
Women were slaves and the children were soldiers.
The papers they called wisdom the same story over and over.
Something stirred inside me or was it coming from the sea?
Somehow the whole world I could see.
You were there with me all of us surrounded by the view.
We couldn’t turn away ‘cause now our time was overdue.
(What was that sound? “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”)
We thought we had a handle we all thought we could make a cure
But we saw powers, I mean Powers we could not endure.
We knew things were bad but this made our fear look small.
There was nothing we could do. Was there nothing at all?
People laughed like in some Stephen King story.
All the cruel things were done. Were they done for the glory?
Everyone was afraid and cried, “Death to [the other]!”
We cried out for God, our great Father, our great Mother.
(Was that weeping? “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”)
Along the watchtower we could see armies on the plain.
Over one there were stars and a sound like metal rain.
Beneath the moon, a billion others came marching.
Both carried crosses and crosses they were stomping.
Then towers arose in lands old and lands new.
These structures restructured gave dollars to the few.
Take down the forest and ship it all so far away.
Let the virus take hold, it’s just another day.
(In the canyon was a sound: “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
If only I could say it was just this one really bad time.
Or three bad guys, evil women, spoiled meat, bad rhymes.
If only I could tell you, it’s the roll of the dice,
Or the stars, the karma, or the bad advice.
But it was a black magic mixture of the cruel, bland, and kind.
It was in their souls – in theirs and in mine.
And though we tried some of us tried to make each one whole again.
We knew one of these days the horsemen would ride, the horsemen
should be coming, we thought again.
(Still I thought I heard some voices sing, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
We were ASKING for it! For the sword to be ours Dear God can’t we
fight them and win once in awhile!
This child’s gonna die and that lake is dead and the generals think they’re right.
We can’t stand anymore promises! Don’t give us Matthew, Mark, and go.
We hollered, You must be Dead, Dead a long time ago!
‘Cause it’s gotten so bad I can’t take anymore.
Take our own guns to the streets, the fields, out the door.
And when we’ve cleaned out this sewer we’ll come back to the light.
When the dirty work’s done we’ll come back to the light, maybe back to your light again.
(Now I surely heard, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”)
We saw something, no someone, I don’t really know how to say.
It was big and close and bright and it was so far away.
We stood terrified, dried up, we were frozen in our shoes.
We would have screamed and run or wept, you know, but we had nothing left to lose.
I thought it was an angel, the sun, I thought it might be a bird.
Then I thought it might be God, or God’s child, or God’s word.
And the whole world got warm, there was something in the air.
Were those chimes of freedom I was hearing everywhere?
And that morning star sang loud, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Guns ready, we started for the generals and the greed.
But the child spoke - and we forgot every creed!
We heard thunder, the earth cracked, and it started to rain
and the voice said
“There’s been enough pain, I know, there’s been too much pain.
Let the destruction cease.
The prisoners all release,
Your tortured souls, all of you.
I now make all things new.”
Now we were weeping and we joined the singing, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
“I remember you! You are what life can be!” he said.
We sang, "This yearning to be free, is to run home to you!" He said,
“Let’s make the rivers roar! The oceans we will cross.
We’ll travel this whole world. Nevermore will you be lost!”
And all the heaven and earth did sing! “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Thursday, August 31, 2006
We Christians base our practices and beliefs upon the notion that people are a certain kind of being. They have certain natural characteristics and behave in certain ways. We also have hopes for the way people should behave. For example, in our church tradition, we expect people to be thinkers and doers. We expect people to care about each other and to act upon that caring. We accept that people make mistakes and we practice a tricky thing called forgiveness. We talk about the relationship a person has with God and we mean something special and personal.
As you learn other ways to think about what it means to be a person and what it means to be a Christian, you will ask questions and seek answers. Questions like yours have been asked for centuries within Christianity, and in Judaism from which Christianity grew. In fact, people from all faith and philosophical traditions have probed the mystery of what sort of being we are.
Much of what we know about people is taught us in school, through studying biology, health, and social studies. Also in school, we learn about how people behave through studying history and English (i.e. poetry, novels, plays, and other literature). Does Christianity contradict this school learning? When we talk about the creation story in the Bible, do we mean it really happened that way? Can the truths that Christianity claims be proved?
Your church tradition, the United Church of Christ, is one that embraces the knowledge that is uncovered in all these fields of learning. For instance, we look forward as a church and a faith to the ever more complete understanding we gain about how our genes work. The more sociobiology teaches us about the genetic code of life, the more we are interested. We embrace the continued efforts of those who try to peer into the way the universe started with a big bang.
When we consider a person who is experiencing depression, we believe it is valid to talk about their biology, the chemical basis of depression, and to derive a pharmaceutical treatment from that understanding. We also believe that that it is valid to talk about the formation of a person’s personality, the psychology of depression, and to derive a “talk therapy” or “cognitive therapy” from that understanding
Yet, we know that there is truth that lies elsewhere. As far as valid ways of looking at depression, we honor the tradition that there is a spiritual component to depression. We find many places in the Bible where people cry out from despair. We find voices affirming that God is present with us in times of despair. So our faith derives what are now unfashionable ways to respond to depression and despair. In the dull, dead-ends of our lives when we see no alternatives, when our pain is great and our future unthinkable, what does the Bible teach? What does our tradition teach?
· We say that God is present in our time of need. The Bible has stories of people who trusted that presence and found strength to carry on in the face of enemies, in the aftermath of disaster, in the emptiness of loss, and in even in the dryness of doubt. Mark 9:24 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?" "From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “`If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
· We say that God does not turn away. We say that misfortune and disaster are not God’s punishment for something bad we have done.
· We say that God has set people free. People are not bound by what God says. We are free to obey and to not obey.
In your confirmation class, as in your earlier learning from your family, from church, and from Sunday school, you have an opportunity to learn how to look for that ‘truth that lies elsewhere’, and to know it for your own.
Peace and Blessing,
Monday, May 22, 2006
Stan Grossfeld wrote a report in Today's Globe about a guy who helps athletes across many sports by teaching them
a. to visualize
b. to practice getting in the Zone (remember the Kevin Costner character in "For Love of the Game" who could "work the machine?"
c. to think postive thoughts
Alex Rodriguez uses the phrase, "I hit solid with an accelerated bat head." as his zone invoking mantra. Pretty interesting.