Tuesday, August 15, 2017

God's Reign = Action

I have been focusing on forgiveness these last few installments.  This is not only because I have learned about forgiveness within the larger framing of the approaching nearness of God's reign -- thank you Martin Smith -- but also because I have also learned how we need to continually practice forgiveness on lots of levels within the web of relationships of our day-to-day lives.  

The biggest piece of my learning has been to understand the limitations of a transactional approach to forgiving.  When Jesus talks about loving our enemies he criticizes an easy tit-for-tat balancing within safe circles.  He says "Even the gentiles do that." (Matthew 5:47) and by that clearly intends for us to do more.  

Loving one's enemies is "kingdom work."  It relies on an authority larger than our enclosed circles and requires much more than a "settled accounts" stasis.  

Just as important as the scope in this reading is our recognizing that forgiveness -- principle among those actions that could be construed as loving one's enemies -- must be something done.  It requires action.  

Because it is an action involving another it will have all the appearance of being only transactional.  It will have the initiating approach of the petitioner necessarily coupled with the returning and confirming response of the one being petitioned.  Like any transaction "I'm sorry/I forgive you" it risks being understood as finished too soon and portrayed as discrete and specific to the shared interests of the two parties.  Done!

Action is required and because we are creatures of time and space action it is required again, and again, and again.

This reminds me of a conversation I had at seminary about the word torah/תּוֹרָה.  Our contemporary use is to understand the word as a noun depicting the collection of texts in the first five books of the Bible and to summarize them as largely of or about a set of rules or laws.  

This is understandable because a centerpiece story in that collection is the handing of the ten commandments to Moses.  What was interesting to learn then was that the word Torah/תּוֹרָה is built on a verb ירה which means to teach. 

The characteristics I am applying to forgiveness are at work here.  Faithful living whether determined by ancient Hebrew standards or a more contemporary Christian practice calls us to continual action.

Whether it is one discrete transaction after another, cascading or expanding into an ever widening circle or it is an aroused response of love for others begun and made near to us in God's ever approaching love of us "kingdom work" requires action!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Forgiven-ness begets forgiving-ness

There is a way to talk about the reign of God that helps to name forgiveness as of God from the beginning but even now continuously begging our practice.  The phrase is "already and not yet."

First let's not get stymied by a typical “both/and” of “Anglican comprehensiveness" in allowing two seemingly contradictory categories to coexist.  It is not a cop-out.

The possibility of human forgiveness is grounded in God and we must admit that priority. Knowing human tendencies, we are wise to be cautious about this truth to avoid presumption or taking this gift for granted.

This priority is not like an abstract argument waiting to be articulated but more like a reality entirely caught up in who God is as the "ground of our being."

You can say that we are born into forgiven-ness.  Still cautious but infinitely graced.

That's the already-ness of forgiveness as a priority from the reign of God.

But there is also a "not yet" to the reign of God because God honors our world of time and space and ". . . the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

So we revel and celebrate the life of Jesus with all the questions that come in making sense of the fullness of his divinity and his humanity; what did he know and when did he know it?

Another marvel is in imagining the timing and activity of his forgiving.  No matter what you say about it's already-ness Jesus dispensed forgiveness early and often like advertising for what was to come. 

He never withheld it but his forgiving also did not presume or rush ahead.  It waited on the moments it was given to be beckoned by creatures like us and with his pronouncements then he made the world a better place.

Forgiving-ness does not presume but waits on us as well, not only for our confessions but just as much on our pronouncements.

As much as we must stay cautious so as not to take God's on-the-ground gift for granted we must also not avoid our own part in incarnating God's gift.  Jesus showed us how. He remembered from where the gift came and he gave it away.  "As the Father has loved me so I have loved you, abide in my love." John 15:9

When we forget or presume we slip into that "transactional" version of forgiveness I wrote about last week.  We become imposters who misunderstand from where all this grace comes and measure out deals, keep accounts, punish and seldom if ever forget, "only forgiv[ing] as much as our broken human frames can hold and release.

Now instead of ledgers and grudges, shame and offenses we can do even more out of gratitude for what God has already done and there's one less "not-yet" moment in God's reign.

God's reign is "already" and we are forgiven.  God's reign is "not yet" and so we can do the forgiving.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Voluntary Forgiveness

I'm still in that reverie and marvel at what it means that the "reign of God is upon us." Thanks to so many good sources: Martin Smith, Paul Tillich, Diana Butler Bass and their lively coupling with our lectionary's guidance through Matthew's middle chapters the reverie is deep and electric.

There is another source for my musings that I must acknowledge. 

My life with you this past year. 

This starts a smidge confessional so read with me -- all the way through but -- gently. 

Last summer was not easy.  My relationships with people I love were a mess.  I was still stuck in the quagmire of being until August 12, not-yet-divorced.  I was dragging along a mortgage on a house I wasn't living in.  I had to change therapists. 

For the most part I got through those challenges, just not without lots of help. The help came in two forms mostly: volunteerism and forgiveness.  Lots of you stepped up and added yourselves to the labors.  Just as many of you forgave me on the front end of my sabbatical and made it available to me in exactly the way I needed. 

When I got back to Athens after my trip to Yellowstone my accident pushed on us all.  By being both a distraction and an inhibitor it made much of what should have happened in September and later hard and in some cases impossible to do.  More volunteerism and more forgiveness needed. 

My immobility quieted my life.  There was still an air of forgiveness and still people stepping up.  We walked through what was left of the year.  I didn't run.  We didn't run.

There's another reason my world shrank.  I was miscalculating forgiveness and volunteerism.  I was measuring them transactionally.  Afraid to ask for help, afraid to take risks, afraid to move forward because I couldn't afford to pay it back.  I took on a few things but still didn't look ahead with any confidence or courage.

That brought a fresh round of setbacks.  Mostly private and personal but still restrictive.  Still inhibiting. 

Something happened.  Maybe it was related to my house finally selling.  I really can't say but it feels like a seed was planted. 

Now our attention is much more forward focused.  We can plan, we can even imagine running.  Guess who gets to come along from those old days?  Forgiveness and volunteerism.

I understand them both now as dynamic realities begun in the presence of God.  Forgiveness means trusting God's love enough to pursue healing instead of presuming to do God's work by punishing others. It is no longer a transactional housekeeping of rights and wrongs, of debts and favors.  It is a faithful and constant response to the "reign of God [being] upon us."

Otherwise we can only forgive as much as our broken human frames can hold and release. Otherwise we "keep" track of scores and never really let go of the past. 

That happens when our worlds shrink and we forget that God is with us.  It happens when we hurt and are fatigued in our disappointment.  We just want to quit and start new accounts where there is not yet a demand for our accommodations.  Some people leave church.

Volunteerism is similarly affected.  We just don't show up and we look for benefits for ourselves before others. 

Both expand when placed into the hands of God.  Both become tools for saying thank you to God for being present with us.

Like many of the truths in my life these apply both corporately and personally.  It only hurts when I am or others are stuck in "transaction mode."  Still keeping score the old fashioned way.

But God is with us and forgiveness is our admitting to the effect of that nearness of God's kingdom.  Without it our accounts are always in danger of being overdrawn and we cannot truly move forward. 

With it?  We can forgive beyond our hoping, we can step up for each other and help each move into that future where God awaits us.  
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Wide and Deep

"I am a waste and because God is God, a glorious waste at that.  It seems I've been in this moment for a while.  That is to say that I am learning to begin with and keep thinking in terms of God's continuing presence with us as more informative than any other truth of our lives. (Me, last week)
I started down this path when I sat with several diocesan friends and others to hear Martin Smith talk about Jesus as an "aroused arouser."  

Smith was looking for a placed shared by the "Marys and the Marthas," the contemplatives and the proselytizers, worshippers and the workers.  He saw the contemporary church as bifurcated and by way of that split undone as a means to the larger end given to it by God.

A close examination of what "turned on" Jesus or of that thing in which Jesus seemed to be most interested became for Smith the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God.  Smith included in his remarks the important reminder that because of its nearness and the places from where the kingdom arrives we can never "talk behind Jesus' back."  

He is with us as we wash the sojourner's feet and as we pray, as we stock the soup kitchen and as we sing old metrical hymns, as we live and as we die.  

It took a while for the first followers to understand this.  Paul's letter to the Romans is stuffed full with this concern and his attempts to share its pervasive wonder.  Paul says, 
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
So I'm good with it.  God is with us and is seeing to God's proximity with us because God is God. Said another more "Smithian" way, "the Kingdom of heaven is near."

"I'm good with it" but none of this kingdom glory is settling for me.  Yes, I have my anxieties and Paul's words are reassuring but the overall effect for me is more up than down, more warmed than cooled, more awakened than rested. 

Here's where I want to go with this new (renewed?) arousal.  I want to go wide and deep. I want to ask again and again the question "what is God calling me/us to become?"  

I am confident that God's proximity allows the question to become a constant refrain for us. Because God is with us we can always be asking and answering this question.  God's presence is NOT contingent on our getting the answer right.

But when it hits us that God is with us and nothing can separate us from that love aren't we encouraged to do all sorts of things that previously would have seemed too daunting, too risky?  Beyond the refrain are answers that we may have refused in the fears and doubts of our past.  Whose responses we may have deferred because we thought God wasn't already in the room. 

There's so much to do! Thanks be that God is with us!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

God is with us, still!

I'm reflecting back on last Sunday's gospel of the sower.  I have grown to appreciating the extravagant love of God in broadcasting seed on every kind of soil.  3 bad locations and one good that only renders varied results - 100-fold, 60-fold or 30-fold.  What a glorious waste!

And so am I!  That's right.  I am a waste and because God is God, a glorious waste at that.  It seems I've been in this moment for a while.  That is to say that I am learning to begin with and keep thinking in terms of God's continuing presence with us as more informative than any other truth of our lives of largely bad soil.

This in the vein of my previous attempts to appreciate Paul Tillich's description of God as the ground of being.  There is a depth in that claim that we miss with some many other descriptions of who God is.  For sure it suffers the same limitation that all human descriptions of God suffer.  The concept is caught up in the term analogia entis.  That is to say our descriptions of God are not to be confused with God.

Another of Tillich's colleagues, the inimitable Karl Barth pushed back against this notion.
His take was that in the revelation of God in the person, life, death and resurrection of Jesus we were given the language capable of fully expressing who God is.  Barth termed it the analogia fidei.  That is to say that by faith God bestows the necessary language for us to know and express who God is.

Tillich and Barth don't really disagree here.  Both credit God with closing the gap.  Both would rely on language that identifies God as with us.  Both would understand Jesus as the means by which God speaks the language of faith through us.  Just like Paul says for us this Sunday, July 23:
When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:15b-17, NRSV)
 For me the marvel is that we are glorious recipients of God's extravagant love and grounding presence.  Even bad soil has God as the ground of being.  Even bad soil can cry, "Abba, Father!"

This means so much in our day-to-day lives.  Bad soil cannot save itself but because of who God is we can say we're sorry and call on God who loves all soil, who sets things right and wastes his Glory on us.

God is the ground of our being. God is with us. God makes love possible. With God's presence all our promises can still be kept.  With God's presence we can learn and grow and bear fruit.  With God's presence our broken relationships can be restored again.

God does not wait but casts his love on all soil and God keeps on loving us.  Results may vary -- sounds like a warning label -- but really that just means we are different and yet still just as beloved of God.

So much is possible even though there be weeds among the wheat.  There are possibilities on so many levels because God is with us!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Other Sermons

Fred Craddock said lots of good things.  Things in sermons about the Bible, about Jesus, about sin, about God, lots of good things.  He also said some things about saying some things.  That is because he taught about preaching.

Here's one of my favorites, paraphrased,  "every preacher has a sermon, they just change names to protect the innocent and preach it over and over."

Some preachers have two sermons.  Some of the best have three maybe even four.  But all are guilty of the same "costuming."

I'm pretty sure I've got at least two sermons: God is God and you're not and that's good news.

My other sermon is something like "I once was a baptist and now I'm . . . "

I hope I have another two or three.  Craddock would say "don't be greedy."

I know this: I've never, I repeat NEVER, felt like I was being left alone in a wilderness to struggle with finding something to say.  The text is richer than what we read and the "word" does its work, often in spite of me.

This is not true for all preachers.  But what Craddock said about preaching is true for each one of us. There are only a handful of life lessons that can fit into our rule books.  We get one or two things down pat and just keep using them over and over.

Our capacity to learn and grow is always being challenged and we often just say "enough."  We retreat back to things we already knew and dress them up as something new.

Think about how many of us -- I'm the worst -- listen just enough to reply and seldom enough to be changed. Seldom enough to get to that vulnerability where change happens. Instead we load our gun with "ready, fire, aim" responses that let us stay with what we know and all our habits.

It's as if we don't trust someone.  It happens in preaching, too.

But trust is the threshold to learning.  For preaching it starts with listening.  Listening for the word that doesn't necessarily confirm what we've said before.  Listening for that truth that is bigger than the one we used last week.

With people we look for matches, shared likes and dislikes, similarities.  That's what makes Sunday morning the most segregated hour of the week.

Thanks be to God we don't go to church.  Thanks be to God we ARE the church. So that wherever we go we are always being shown,  called to listen to the others in our day-to-day lives and not the same old "sermons" redressed down to our size.

Trust is the threshold of learning.  Learning to live with others who are not immediately like us. Since we've recognized the truth that God is with us always maybe now we can trust and listen like never before.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Always with us

When I worked for Fluor Daniel I was impressed with how much time and energy were spent on the creating a corporate culture.  Posters, buttons, speeches, employee trainings were all tuned-in to the most recent idea adopted by upper management.  I especially remember when I started to hear the phrase "value added."

It was meant to title all those things each of FD's employees did on top of their specific assignment to positively boost the client's experience and enhance the product.  Not just pipes drafted but pipes drafted using the latest software so that plans could be adapted electronically and jobsite work could advance without delay!  Value added!

I suppose my part in adding value to the corporate culture was to squeeze more guests into the employee fitness center without them knowing it was a problem.  That's what the "vice-president of towel operations" was supposed to do.

In the end my best efforts toward that corporate goal were to listen and accompany every fitness center user as they relieved the stress of their own efforts to add value on a deadline, to find ways to forward their fitness away from work, to encourage them when their waistlines shrank too slowly.

I'm remembering those days as a way to explore more deeply into the truth that I've read between Paul Tillich and Diana Butler Bass these last few weeks.

There are transactional structures that inform the use of "value added" language.  But some of that transaction thinking fails to grasp the effect of our groundedness in God.  We are mudlings, made from the very ground and spittle and breath of God.  We are created by God in love and only away from God by our own forgetfulness and failing.

Forgiveness and repentance aren't contracts to which God adds value.  They are our acceptance that the deal of our creation was already good enough and needed no enhancement, no buttons or posters or ahead of schedule deliveries.  No need for "value added."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Grounding Forgivness


Two weeks ago I wrote from Paul Tillich's claim via Diana Butler Bass that God is the "ground of our being." We should understand who God is from being "down here" and not depend singly on the understanding the God is from some lofty refined perch we imagine heaven to be.

The graphic above gets at one important aspect of that place we share with God "down here."  This is moving from Tillich's perspective and wondering closer to the points Diana Butler Bass makes in her recent work "Grounded."  For sure she shares the sense that God is with us down here but she wants to and digs further to get at those traits of faith that last.

One of the ways she envisions our moving forward is to look honestly at our roots.  To tell the truth about our families and our heritage and to stay close to the hard parts, to read between the lines and to remember that God is with us still.

She tells the story of President Obama's family tree as he learned it:
"he heard a genealogy recited by his granny: 'first there was Miwiru . . . Miwiru sired Sigona, sigoma sired Owiny.'  The lineage was accompanied by stories, mostly of betrayal and abandonment, that revealed to the young man a new understanding of his life:
'I felt the circle finally close. I realized who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation . . . '"
Most of us don't need to hear it to know that we have a story or more of "betrayal and abandonment" somewhere in our family's unfolding.  If we read between the lines or mind the gaps those moments can be acknowledged, not so much as disqualifications or sins deserving punishment but as markers of the down here to which God must "descend" to be with us.

It's humbling.  And it's hard.  Hard to understand when those family stories include our being betrayed or abandoned or abused.  Hard to understand when our memories stunt us and reprise the pain and hurt.

It will not do simply to prevent an emotional response to this grounding/humbling.  Human existence is what it is.  It is ours to understand and choose what's next so that we are not stuck in humiliation but finally standing with God.

Part of how we move out of the brokenness is to acknowledge that we are not static placeholders but living beings.  We grow!  We ask for forgiveness and we forgive. We hope, knowing that it will not be pride in our own efforts that saves us but a humble trusting on God as the "ground of our being."



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Braided Trajectory




There are several currents moving in, around and through our lives as the people of the Church of the Advent in Madison, GA in the year 2017.  Think spiritual, political, regional, financial, historical, personal, physical, communal, tribal and on and on.

We're like a rope with multi-colored strands woven regularly and irregularly so that sometimes there's a pattern of texture and color and sometimes the pattern is lost causing the rope to bulge or stretch and some colors to be lost behind one or two.  Still a rope but less reliable for sure.

Most of us live with an intuitive sense of this pattern and balance.  Some of us can and do focus particularly on a subset of strands.  Some look ahead, others look back and compare now and then.

No matter our individual emphases or interests we share this braided-ness with each other.  Part of that sharing is how we contribute to the patterns and balance.  Another part is how we interrupt or misdirect the weaving.

Thanks be to God we are a community, a koinonia, shareholders.  We are not without the means or resources to contribute on each other's behalf toward a balanced and beautiful weaving.  That shareholding goes by many names: Pastoral Care Committee, Pledging, ROTA, DOK, Vestry, Altar Guild, Choir and on and on.

Some of who we are is colored and sized by the world outside our walls, by the world before and after worship and by the world we remember and visit that isn't directly related to Advent.  Think families, work, news.  There are others.

Each one of us can learn to manage that effect and still bring to our shared lives a balance of dark and light, weak and strong, broken and unbroken strands. That's one of the marvels of this braided trajectory, that it is made of all kinds and conditions of strands.

So . . . bring it!  Join this incredibly intricate and strong and varied and developing religion.  The word means tied back to God.  Join us! Make your contribution! Look to support each other by regularity and by a trusting attention to the surprises and gifts of irregularity and new strands.

As summer moves around us say a prayer and ask God to help you to see your part in this movement in, around and through our lives as the people of the Church of the Advent in Madison GA in the year 2017.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Down to Earth

Our just-passed-days of Easter celebration, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday observances have been wonderful in helping us to focus on the hard work of the "early church" in making sense of the news -- called good -- that the one who died and was raised was who and what God had in mind all along.

Sunday after Sunday we heard stories of those first believers struggling with the new information as it bumped into or even contradicted what they had spent years expecting differently.

Another lesson in the Sunday lectionary has been the "high theological" one of showing God-with-us but with us in raising us from the dead, and with us now in a spiritually gifted fellowship of love, proclamation and sharing.

Much of our study has been drawn to lofty titles and theological distinctions that take our risen Lord through ascension to a heavenly throne to be transcendent and to rule over all.

But there is another place or level through which we can understand God as with us.  The mid-20th century German Paul Tillich said it this way,
“We must abandon the external height images in which the theistic God has historically been perceived and replace them with internal depth images of a deity who is not apart from us, but who is the very core and ground of all that is.”
Tillich is opposed to the loftiness and is particularly cautious that we will leave a part of our own lives out of that formulation of "God with us" if our picture misses also understanding the continuing presence of God as the "ground of our being."

Thank goodness we took our time -- at least a Sunday -- to consider the nature of God as three-in-one and saw in our examination the presence of God down here as much as up there.  The story of a God who creates, redeems and sustains us and is with us "down here" is a constant refrain of scripture:
  • God is with us down here, fashioning a "mudling" to become human by the breath of God,
  • and down here with Moses and the pilgrim masses wandering for a generation to find the waiting promise of a homeland,
  • and down here with Jeremiah in a cistern inciting a renewal of faith to sustain soon-to-be exiles,
  • and down here in a den of lions with Daniel to change the mind of Darius, 
  • and down here with Jesus in weeping for his dead friend Lazarus, 
  • and down here in His suffering to death on the cross and to repose in the tomb, 
  • and down here with Paul blinded and convalescing to be healed by help of one of those he sought to persecute.   
It behooves us then to think of our lives of faith as called into a groundedness as much as any lofted holiness or above-it-all purity.  We needn't reject our recent learning about God as Trinity or of Jesus as died AND raised AND ascended.  All of that is true.  But because we are still here traversing Morgan County's fields and pathways we include the understanding that God is with us down here, indeed is the very ground of our being.  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Extra-Ordinary Time

This Sunday,  June 11 is set aside to give us a chance to focus on a description of God that emerges for us out of biblical narrative, the life of the early Church and most especially out of the story of the life, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus, including the event of last Sunday's celebration, Pentecost.  The emergent description is the Trinity.

In the earliest usage we learned to say Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in various contemporary attempts Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier or my favorite -- ancient but modern -- Lover, Beloved, Love.  Lots of questions preceded the ones that are answered by our trinitarian titles.  Lots of questions remain but in these days we have come to a fairly comfortable acceptance by way of admitting that most of what we hope to know about God has lots of mystery with it.

Given that most seminarians are instructed to avoid preaching on this Sunday, its safe to say that there is a certain avoidance of this trinitarian "mystery."  Sadly, this is by the very ones who should be delving, digging, embracing this particular theological necessity.  I'll get to why we need to but for now dig into this mystery with me a little.

Remember how I described how necessary are each of those moments we've observed in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  The mystery of the Trinity is a similar necessity.

To begin we can't leave God simply as ONE (think the monotheism of Hebrew scripture) while at the same time claiming that God was incarnate by way of a fully-present-for-us divinity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. One at least must account for the conversation that Jesus has with God in prayer, especially like those moments from the gospel of John read on Good Shepherd Sunday.  What was first a christological question persists and joins our trinitarian investigation.  We have to get at some description that accounts for that relationship shared with God and Jesus.   Jesus uses Father and Son language while praying.

As we follow the story into and beyond Pentecost we have another relationship for which to account.  It is that one that continues between us and God the Father now accompanied by the post-Ascension Son sitting in authority with Him.  The Holy Spirit is how we understand ourselves as believers still to be in relationship with God, who has already redefined the divine human relationship for us.

However you are comfortable with describing the manner in which a divine relationship proceeds towards you, you can count on God to see to the proceeding.  When Jesus says "I am the way, . . . " he knows that way starts with God coming to us first.

God is always "towards" us, from before creation and that same relationship with all creation has always been of the Holy Spirit.  Think of the winds hovering over the waters, God breathing into the nostrils of the first human, how the Red sea was blown back for the children of Israel to escape the Egyptians, the army mustered into being in the Valley of Dry Bones, and the dove descending as Jesus comes up from the waters of his baptism by John.

That's why I appreciate and use the description of Lover, Beloved, Love.  For sure it speaks of how we have historically read Jesus in prayer -- from the cross as well -- though maybe not so much of how we read Paul in particular.  And that is why we dig.  We are drawn into the mystery and cannot stop, because of love.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Easter Necessity

There are so many moments in the gospels when what we read seems less like a factual narrative account of the activity of Jesus and his followers and instead is more like an attempt to frame and present -- sometimes fantastically -- a necessary theological claim.  

One of those is when we read at the end of the Luke's gospel the story of Jesus ascending into heaven to be at God's right hand.  There are several pieces that come together to make His ascension the "preferred method" for Luke to end Jesus' resurrected time on earth.  

That Jesus "born of the virgin Mary" was fully human is as good a place to start as any.  And as fantastic as are the stories of angelic visitations and announcements, and shepherds, along with Matthew's stars, and dreams, and wisemen we hold fast to the claim that he was born into the world of time and space as humans are born.  When Jesus dies it is the end of a human life, horribly ended but human nonetheless.  Time and space cannot be ignored. 

That God raised Jesus from the dead is another claim that makes ascension theologically necessary. And it is important to remember that resurrection cannot be less than incarnation.  It can be more, however.

It is more.  Luke's description of Jesus as appearing but unrecognized on the road to Emmaus and then disappearing at dinner is a fairly modest attempt to account for the difference that resurrection made to this "human one." It is similar to John's treatment of Jesus as capable of passing through locked doors and yet still possessing just as much of a body as was the one crucified.  A body that Thomas is able to touch.  

The 40 day thing is also necessary and functions as a literary device similar to its previous use when Jesus is driven into the wilderness.  It marks a completed period of paradigmatic change.  Just like the children of Israel were changed in their 40 year wilderness sojourn and the earth was cleansed by forty days and nights of rain, in this case Jesus' "work" is done. 

Another way to say it is that resurrection is NOT resuscitation, so when his work is complete, dying is no longer an option for Jesus.  The "best" way for him to get to heaven is to just go there.  And that's what he does: "he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven." (Luke 24:51)

It is a modern yet sophistic curiosity that puzzles about the location of heaven, his direction and rate of ascent, etc.  So we can get back to more necessary theologies we should admit that if Jesus was removed at the speed of light he'd still be within the bounds of what we call the Milky Way.  Better to give God credit for something other than attaining warp speed.

Obviously, Jesus' rate of ascent was not Luke's point.   What was important for Luke was to have us understand that God had done EVERYTHING that was necessary to be done: life, death, resurrection, and ascension; all necessary and all from God.

Pentecost is the next necessity.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Easter Maturity

I haven't worshipped with other Episcopal congregations during Easter in a while. So I haven't seen what others are doing when it comes to things like standing for the Prayers or forgoing the Confession of Sin or adding alleluias to most acclamations etc.  I am aware of how difficult all of what we are doing in Madison is for several of us.

Just 4 Sundays into this most glorious season and I heard questions at the door. Yet, after what I wrote a couple of weeks ago I'm not about to make a thing out of our postures again. Remember it is our hearts we are called to lift in celebration. I'm still not a cop.

I do know that we are human and so we are prone to habits and patterns that help us to get out of our own way so that God has a chance to sit with us, to breathe with us, to sing and pray and celebrate.
One of the lessons I wink and teach to confirmands is that they should pick a spot in the church to sit every Sunday, so that God will not have to go looking for them.

Most everyone gets the joke but also gets the deeper meaning that our patterns should help us "get out of the way."  It is the first part, our part of the basic sacramental formula that bridges between us and God by way of regularity, validity and efficacy.

There is a caveat.  Sometimes we forget that our habits and patterns are a means to an end, a part of a process that should always seek to obey and and be attendant on God to take God's turn in the process.  So when we hear Jesus saying that there is a connection between our keeping his commandments and the love we share with him it should get our attention.

It would be wrong for us to lapse back into legalism and become as hidebound as first century pharisees.  Yes, we hope to get out of the way but so that we can do all we can to be in love and not just safely or solely habitual or patterned.

The effect of our sacrificial obedience is to surrender to God's love, God's power, God's authority.
I'm thinking Pinocchio.  Yes, the puppet who yearned to be human.  His struggles with learning right and wrong and having a conscience and suffering consequences were all to identify what it means to be human.  Then one day he gives up the 40 coins meant to buy a new suit, helps the Fairy who has fallen ill, and wakes up the next morning a real boy!

Besides the intriguing allusions as they echo things like the biblical changes that come after 40 days/years, there is clearly a lesson about surrender, love and maturity.

Jesus, the incarnation of God's yearning, God's love is not just giving us a set of rules with which to march our way through life's trials. His commandment -- think "love letter" not "military orders" -- is so that we will rise to the maturity of love over law, into life from death ourselves.

There will be trials and struggles.  That's what it means to be human.  There will be love.  That's what Easter means.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Easter Discovery

The stories we hear on Sunday during Easter season are meant help us discover or wake up to something we have likely missed.  That Jesus is raised from the dead brings a new light to the world without which we are blind, not only to the truths embedded in our history but the truths waiting for us in the future.  Like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus we need Jesus to accompany us to discover what God has been doing and to give us the eyes and hearts to see where God is calling us.

One of the joys of this past week was me getting to attend Conversations with Martin Smith hosted by Grace Episcopal in Gainesville.  His playful encouragement led us to consider a new way to understand the vital intersection or common ground shared by spirituality and mission.  

First he helped us to see how we have separated the two interests and made one out of and for extroverts and the other out of and for introverts.  He helped us to see how we have suffered a false dichotomy for years in the church.  His premise was marvelously presented by introducing a third concept that at the beginning seemed unrelated but very interesting.

He proposed we reconsider our understanding of God's will instead -- or in addition to -- as God's desire.  With a twinkle in his eye he encouraged us to consider that we could reclaim a lost tradition in the church; one practiced by the earliest mystics in our tradition.  It reminded me of the Richard Rohr quote we used to remember Ginger Kroeber:
Jesus promises that when the hunger arises within you to find your own deepest aliveness within God’s aliveness, it will be satisfied—in fact, the hunger itself is a sign that the bond is already in place. As we enter the path of transformation, the most valuable thing we have working in our favor is our yearning. Some spiritual teachers will even say that the yearning you feel for God is actually coming from the opposite direction; it is in fact God’s yearning for you. 
Thinking instead in terms of God's desire, God's yearning is a game changer.  Just like the realizations in Emmaus there comes a new way to understand all that we have held differently --perhaps inadequately -- before.  

Smith asked us to consider that God's yearning mattered to Jesus -- Smith said aroused -- and that when he was proclaiming the coming of the reign of God -- we can say "kingdom" but we mustn't think only boundaries and locales -- he was allowing God to do just that; to yearn, to desire, to want us to be with him into a future he already inhabits.  To discover the way, the truth and the life!  

Too often we hear Jesus say "I am the way . . ."  and we think exclusivity.  We think that we have a golden ticket that no other religion possesses or can offer.  What a discovery to think that God is God of all and all futures and that Jesus is the incarnation of God's yearning, of God's desire for us to move into a future with him.  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Easter Imagination

I wrote recently about the comprehensiveness of our Prayer Book's options.  There are 2 versions of our Rite One Eucharistic prayers and 4 of the Rite Two Prayers.  Within each of those liturgical sets are smaller options.  Some we try to employ "per season."  Each year we have prayed using all 6 forms for eucharistic worship.  The end result is not only a year filled with ear catching phrases but seasons shaped by actions that advance and complement the important holy-days spread throughout the year.

Another way that we have lived with our BCP is in preparation for confirmation and reception.  By studying the BCP we have learned how to use it, why it was first composed, as well as what we hope "biblical prayer" will do for us and our world.  The order of services -- from Morning Prayer to The Dedication and Consecration of a Church -- are fashioned and listed in an ideal way to organize the lives of faithful people consistent with our shared biblical witness and our history from Jerusalem to Rome and to Canterbury and to Philadelphia.

In other words we are a people of two books, and we have become a parish formed by almost all of what the 1979 BCP has to offer and helps us to access in holy scripture.  We do "good church" because we have trusted the BCP to shape our lives in worship every Sunday and many weekdays as well.  We have been permitted to join in a long-lived imagination that was shepherded by Jesus and burned into the hearts and minds of people like Luke, Paul and Peter, Stephen and Timothy and John the Divine. The BCP encourages us to echo the very phrases and songs they first practiced.  Our rehearsals are forming us into a people like few others.

Without our utilizing the options proscribed for our consideration our worship in 2017 would sink to robotic incantations more like sleepy magicians than imaginative believers.  It may not have been the first intent of those scholars and priests who feverishly finished their work that September 1979 night in Denver but their imagination was passing along to us from centuries before a richness of sights and sounds, thoughts and prayers only possible because of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The shape our worship takes -- no matter how we employ our imaginations or choose our options -- replays, represents, rehearses, and reinforces His and our dying and being raised.  In teaching our confirmands I have relied on this schematic like no other.


All of our worship follows this pattern of prayerful entrance, offertory, consecration, and intentional dismissal; of life, death, resurrection, and glorified presence; of bread and wine becoming body and blood; of a gift of human creation becoming a member of Christ's body. None of our worship is without some imagination; sometimes ours but always from God.  Ours is an Easter imagination.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Easter Sharing

During Lent and now extended into the season of Easter a small dedicated group has met to discuss and share their insights, stories and concerns in response to the 5 Marks of Love: Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform, Treasure.  Each "mark" capsulizes how we accomplish our baptismal promises as a response to God's first loving all the world and us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  The curriculum is fashioned and led by members of the monastic community known as the Society of Saint John the Evangelist or the Cowley Brothers.

Every meeting has been seen some deep spiritual enrichment for each one of us.  It is exactly the kind of sharing and growth that a Christian community should foster.  One of the participants has offered this reflection following last week's session.
I have enjoyed participating in the Wednesday night “Marks of Love” study.  Last week we talked about transforming.  “Transforming unjust structures, challenging violence of every kind, and pursuing peace and reconciliation.”  Within our conversation, I was reminded of 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, and love, and self-control.”   
Imagine a world where there is no ego or self-consciousness.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can “take ourselves out of the equation.”  If we aren’t worried about ourselves, it frees us up to be more giving, more loving, more able to reach out to others in love and friendship.  Sometimes I feel this more than other times, but it is a goal; and when I pray for it and remind myself of it, I appropriate it more fully.  Justice and peace on earth seem difficult to realize. 
Reconciliation, at least on a personal level, is totally doable as we reach out to love our neighbor as ourselves, because God loved us first. 
I am beside myself with joy.  This is exactly the kind of "contribution toward dialogue" that we should all be offering to each other.  I'm betting that others from the Wednesday regulars as well as those who have done their own different study during Lent could offer similarly edifying and hope-filled comments.  So . . . let's have it!

Please send me your "contributions toward dialogue" however humble or grand they may be. You do not have to have attended any of the Wednesday sessions.  Heck, let's just share because it's Easter!

I'll protect your identity and add a little "packaging" to help us see where it fits in that 5-fold calling of Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform, Treasure.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Gratitude

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
What a wonderful and deeply enriching Holy Week and Easter it was.  There are so many who stepped up to help with a full calendar of worship and activities.  Some of you attended every service! Several served and some at more than one. It was charming how committed both Buck girls were to their now traditional -- I guess -- role of hiding the eggs for the post-Easter Sunday Celebration Hunt.  I can still see some eggs from my office window.  
I can also see a light of recognition in the eyes of those who took advantage of the calendar's fullness and made their way to most of the services of Holy Week and Easter.  Our Book of Common Prayer is a great resource.  By employing each of the Proper Liturgies for Special Days (BCP pages, 264 to 295) and by including non-BCP liturgies like a weekly Friday reading of the Stations of the Cross and Wednesday's Tenebrae we went "over and above" it's provisions.  There are just SO many options.
A quick look back in the worship register shows that Advent's history is uneven with some years missing the Great Vigil, others Tenebrae.  Some years the Stations of the Cross took the place of the Proper Liturgy for Holy Saturday.  At least now we are observing what our BCP directs and making good places for those "extra-curriculars."  
One of the other ways we have been moving through the year is to employ smaller prayer book options, especially in Holy Eucharist that suit the season.  We just finished a Lenten practice of beginning and ending worship on our knees in some penitential element before and from the Book of Occasional Services a “solemn prayer over the people” after. During the season after the Epiphany we prayed using Eucharistic Prayer D at the 10:30AM service. 8:00AM saw us on our knees reciting the Decalogue together during Lent.  Those are just a few of the options we chose.
Some of what we do is to recall practices more ancient but largely forgotten.  The BCP accommodates our joining a worship tradition older than the Episcopal Church itself.  On pages 362, 368 and 372 just where the celebrant begins what is called "the canon of the mass" there is small rubric. It says, "The people stand or kneel." By following that implied preference -- standing is listed before kneeling, because standing during the "canon" is the more ancient tradition and the one that more suits celebrations of Christ’s resurrection -- we are encouraged to act out our Easter aspirations begun in our opening "Alleluia, Christ is risen!"
We can grant that most of us remember one form of eucharistic worship over others, one set of habits, one set of recitations and gestures.  The options the BCP gives us aren't meant to excuse change for change sake but to give us a seasonal consistency that ties us to our ancient forebears even better than doing the same things every Sunday no matter the season.  
You've already heard my appeal to stand up for as much of our worship as possible in this Easter season but I'm a priest not a policeman, a celebrant not a inquisitor, an Episcopalian not some other denomination so I'm happy with your exercising the options that suit you as long as you "lift up your hearts."
I'm grateful for all your faithfulness, your energy, your rolling with the punches, your support, and for joining me in word and action to affirm "The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Challenging a Modern Christendom

Some of you will remember that we read Mclaren's "We make the road by walking" a couple of years ago.  His words have always challenged so much of our "conventional wisdom."

The Deepest Difference in Christianity is not what you think.
APRIL 9, 2017|BY BRIAN MCLAREN

The deepest difference in Christianity is not what you think:

It is not the schism between East and West, Protestant and Catholic,

High and Low Church,

Evangelical and Mainline,

Pentecostal and NonPentecostal,

or Conservative/Traditionalist and Mainline/Liberal.

No, the deepest difference in Christianity is the chasm Between imperial and original Christianity,

Between a gospel of oppression and a gospel of liberation.

 In comparison to this difference, other differences are trivial.

In fact, they are merely different forms of the same unoriginal thing. The imperial gospel lives by the sword, the gun, and the bomb of violence; the original gospel lives by the basin and towel of service.

The imperial gospel loves money, pleasure, and power; the original gospel loves God, self, neighbor, and creation.

The imperial gospel pacifies the masses and makes them compliant with elites. The original gospel equips agents for justice, joy, and peace for all.

The imperial gospel follows violent men who kill and rule with an iron fist. The original gospel follows a nonviolent man who touches and heals with his nail-scarred hand.

The imperial gospel sends away children, women, the different, the sick, and the culturally, ethnically, and religiously other; the original gospel welcomes all, saying, “Come to me.”

The imperial gospel is a forgiveness racket, sparing you from torture if you play, pray, and pay by the rules. The original gospel is a journey to freedom, inviting the oppressed and oppressors to be transformed by the one rule of love.

The imperial gospel shows its true colors on Good Friday, with whip, thorn, mocking, spit, spear, and cross. The original gospel shows it true colors on Palm Sunday with tears for peace, on Maundy Thursday with an example of loving service, on Good Friday with the gracious prayer, “Forgive them!,” on Holy Saturday with the courage to wait in silence, and on Easter Sunday with an uprising of life to the full.

The deepest difference in Christianity is not what you think.

It is not what you think.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Hope of Reconciliation

Turn to page 447 in the Book of Common Prayer and you will find the beginning of a liturgy in two forms titled "The Reconciliation of a Penitent."  It is likely the least used of the 5 sacramental rites in the Episcopal Church.  The title matters in that it focuses the actions of penitent and confessor on a "reasonable and holy hope," a positive outcome more closely kin to grace than sin, more to resurrection than death.

There is plenty of room in our lives of faith to employ this rite, to have an appointed listener to hear the utterances of a contrite heart and then to pronounce the absolution that yearns to be spoken. Plenty of room that we instead fill with all sorts of things other than reconciliation.

I've been filling my time recently with a smug self-righteousness of a presumed prophetic indignation.  I didn't mean to do that.  I thought I was reprising my father's heroic stand against racism in opening up Anderson, SC's 1965 Community Thanksgiving Day service to his previously excluded African-American clergy colleagues.  I was wrong.

This is not 1965 and I'm not my father.  Even worse is that I lost sight of the fear and pain by which so many of us are still stunted.

Yes were are largely a privileged people.  We own -- with the help of mortgages -- the homes we inhabit.  Most of us have medical and life insurance policies.  (I frequently forget to thank you all for my insurance. I'm sorry.) Many of us have stock portfolios and thick pensions. Most of us can come and go to any and every place in this county and not be overly scrutinized or shunned.

Still there are all sorts of sadly limiting ideas and beliefs that things are not as they should be, even for us.  We know this on all sorts of levels, from private and personal to parochial and public. Sometimes we take responsibility for the difference between the way things are and the way we think things should be.  Sometimes we don't and instead point at others and their faults.  That's me in my indignation.  It's different for each one of us but its hard not to point away from self, especially when we ourselves are pressed upon by fear, stress or sadness.

There is a better way.  The Reconciliation of a Penitent is exactly the liturgy for heading that way. An important part of that heading is to make sure another human actually hears what is being said.  That's the incarnational part of the sacrament, like the getting wet of baptism, or the bread breaking of communion.

There are other parts that make it work too, like the confession itself, the statement of absolution, the naming and claiming of the power of God's grace, the acknowledgment that even the confessor is a sinner in need of forgiveness, and that this moment begs a descriptive and honest specificity in naming the sin for which one is seeking correction and forgiveness. Both forms touch those points in different but equally valid ways.

One plus for me is that a deacon can hear one's confession as well as a priest.  Thanks be to God, somebody can hear mine AND speak the words of absolution for me to hear.  So . . . I'll be saying my confession this coming Holy Week, too.

For sure I have much for which to ask to be forgiven but also I want to be in the best place possible to speak those words of absolution that you deserve to hear in your hope for reconciliation.  When I'm complimented on a sermon I hope to always say something like this, "I'm glad I didn't get in the way."  I hope for the same usage in my hearing and pronouncing God's forgiveness of your sins, too.

Here's an online link in case you can't find your BCP 1979.  Read through and then send me a note* if you want to schedule an hour for your hopeful reconciliation.

*To minimize the risk of spammers getting access this link will be removed at noon Holy Saturday, April 15.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Mission is Love

A small group of parishioners and I have been working our way through this year's Lenten study titled "The Five Marks of Love."  Like last year's it is designed and supported by the members of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist.  The Cowley brothers take turns with short videos to reflect on their own lives in community but for the world.  That is, they acknowledge and celebrate their monastic vocation but understand it as a prayerful effort for all that God has made not just those monastically secluded with them.

That sectioning away from the world can be done all kinds of ways.  It can be an easy retreat, a hidden militant encampment, a sanctuary from danger, an elitist ivory tower, or an exclusive club.

There are even more ways for people to group themselves in distinction from the masses of everyday life.  The ones the church has chosen throughout its history are always at risk.  Even generous coffee shop fronted evangelistic mega-churches will quickly enforce "us and them" thinking.  We all do it. No matter how we gather there is an outside to our inside, a there to our here, a whole to our sect(ion).

Maybe its because -- no matter what my Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher claimed -- none of us have eyes in the backs of our heads.  We can only look at one side of things at a time.  So I like it that the brothers have redefined the historic "5 Marks of Mission" to be a reality based on God's love of the world and not just a sect(ion) being well intended to project it's brand further into that world. By reframing the conversation so that we understand our efforts as a response to first being loved by God the brothers have undone much of that tendency.

Humbly we should admit that simply by gathering as a function of our lives at the Episcopal Church of the Advent we are already significantly branded.  There is already an "us" at work.  So instead of our focus being on some sort of institutional maintenance or brand loyalty it has been more about becoming aware of God's love and representing that love with God back into the world.  We should understand our part as more like breathing than holding our breath or being "blowhards."

But it is marvelously confessional and cathartic when we talk about about how we struggle to practice the "5 Marks of Love" to Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform, Treasure. Even as we hope to recognize God's starting with love we squirm at things like the e-word: evangelism. Even as we open to each other's sharing there is still a charming awkwardness that says something about how we are "in" a church community and "from" a world other than the church itself.

I love this study and I love that God's love is the starter for all this consideration and hope.  I love it that a "bunch of monks" understand their place in the world so well and can call us "in God's love" to recreate that love in so many ways.  Well at least 5 of them.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

First Amendment Christians

A couple of years ago we held a meeting under the title "Civil Religion."  Parishioner Ellen Warren, then a county commissioner was first to talk about her life as a person of faith in public service.  It was a good evening and some troublesome topics were addressed with good manners around the room.  It was the only episode in what I had hoped would be a series.

The title was a play on words.  Usually "civil religion" means that way of being religious in public that allows moments like our Presidents ending their speeches with "God bless America."  It is the anchored in mottos and phrases like "In God we trust" and "One nation, under God."

"Civil religion" informs the hosting of prayer breakfasts and declarations of national days of prayer. It also informed our talking about the interface between faith and governance and trying to be civil about religion at the same time.  Crazy, I know!

My intent was not to reinforce any sense that America is God's chosen nation or that we were founded as a Christian nation.  I instead wanted to push through the idea that the first amendment intends for the church -- in all its disguises -- to be party to the larger discourse of the whole nation, a discourse meant "to form a more perfect union."

That discourse is assumed in the protecting the rights of freedom of assembly, of freedom of speech, and of freedom of the press.  By protecting freedom of religion AND preventing a state church we are being named in the first amendment as having a particular role in that discourse.  We are not prevented from the conversation but are meant to be included for exactly what a church ought to bring to the table: moral and ethical input not serving those in power and a respect for the "dignity of every human being."

For me "civil religion" also means that we are to demonstrate how to have that "union perfecting" conversation with each other and for the sake of a government of, by and for the people.

So I'm OK with much of even my comments about politics and governance.  It's not my fault those terms are confused of conflated with each other.  It is my fault when I don't play fair with the confusion and help the people I love to read what I write or even more so what I post that has been written by others.

Last week's borrowing from John Pavlovitz is a perfect example.  I pretty much agree with what he said.  I do think that we are nearing the end of the life of much gets to call itself Christian in this nation.

Demographics galore will back this up.  But JP wasn't just talking numbers, he was talking about the loss of civil religion.  We have lost that first amendment intent for the practice of religion in America and replaced it with something that too often isn't civil and isn't religious.

I don't agree with everything he wrote or with all of HOW Pavlovitz wrote what he wrote.  So . . .

I'll take more care in the future to be civil and to promote civility but I intend to say more about this "First Amendment Christian" that I hope to model. I'll also continue to include others' voices and writings in describing and navigating that space that is ours as members of the Church of the Advent and citizens of this nation.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

From John Pavlovitz

This is from John Pavlovitz's blog entry titled "The Welcome Extinction of a Dinosaur Church"
There is plenty about who we are in Madison as the Church of the Advent that is so not near extinction.  But the challenge to be renewed is always before us no matter our history and antiques.  I hope this use of Pavlovitz's work encourages a lively conversation without fear or anxiety.

Extinction happens. 
All creatures eventually die out. No matter how much they temporarily flourish, over time they all become nothing but memories preserved in photos and fossils. 
The Church in America as we know it is on such borrowed time. It recently managed to buy a four-year stay of execution from the Electoral Collage, but the writing has been on the wall for a long time: the Religious Right here is in its last days—and thank God for that. 
This Bible Belt-dwelling dinosaur has long known that its demise was coming. While outwardly it appeared to be thriving over the past few decades, the attrition below the surface was and is undeniable: weekly attendance has steadily declined, favorable population demographics are shifting, cultural values are outpacing it, Science is continually challenging it. Its once seemingly endless territory is eroding, with now discarded buildings filling the landscape; dusty museums to what once ruled the land. 
And as with all animals backed into a corner and facing destruction, it has become fully desperate trying to save itself. It has ratcheted up its rhetoric, doubled down on damnation, and gone all in on fear in the hopes of rallying its own for one last frantic effort at staving off extinction. 
This is why it’s made its bed with a President without morals, why it has sold its soul for a Supreme Court seat, why it is frantically overreaching right now with its political advantage, why it is in perpetual attack mode—because it knows that these things are all that it has left. It is flailing wildly trying to postpone what it inevitable, but it cannot. 
Like all doomed species, this white, vicious, myopic dinosaur church will surely die because evolution is killing it— the evolution of a humanity that recognizes:

  • that diversity is not the enemy,
  • that spirituality is bigger than a single religious tradition,
  • that redemptive faith cannot be the author of hatred for its brother,
  • that Whoever or Whatever God is, it must be more compassionate than what this thing has become. 
In these last of its days, the dinosaur will make a grand, horrifying display. It will scream and lash out violently. It will thrash itself about and it will attempt to appear ferocious—but on the inside it is terrified. Its preachers will boldly speak of God giving them the victory, they will spit Scriptures and forecast alternative endings, but these things will not matter. The massive meteor of time and progress is hurling toward them and their eyes are widening. 
And for those of us who truly love Humanity, whether in the name of God or simply in that name of that humanity itself, this is all beautiful news. Because every thing that dies allows something new to be born—and something is being born in these moments: compassion is being birthed in our midst. We are moving into a golden age of empathy, where people will not allow religion to become a barrier any longer; where color and orientation and nation of origin are not deal breakers or justifications for separation—they are worth celebrating. 
And so yes, let the dinosaur posture and screech, but know that its end is surely near.
This is the twilight of one day and the dawn of another— and we are a people waking up to who we are together. 
The sun is rising and we are the caretakers of the coming day. 
Be encouraged.