Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Resurrection!






I love the season of Easter! It’s my favorite Church season. Probably because it also falls on my favorite calendar season – Spring. I totally get the connection between Resurrection and Spring! New Life! New birth! Of course this only works in the Northern hemisphere. And it only works in places where there’s a distinct and cold Winter that then leads to a warming up of Spring – you know, where nature seems to come back to life again after the seeming death of Winter. (Some places, while technically in the Norther Hemisphere, don’t have this kind of distinction… for example some places in the norther part of equatorial Africa.)

Anyway, I do love Spring, and New Life, and Resurrection! I love the idea of resurrection, because it’s true! First off, it’s a profoundly human thing! We – Homo Sapien Sapien – the human race, as a species, have always leaned towards looking for the proverbial dawn after a long dark proverbial night. Almost every culture has had some form of religion. I say “almost” because, while our historians and anthropologists may not know of a culture that has not had “religion” in some form, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one. We humans, from the beginning it seems, have always had a tendency to look “up”, to look “within”, to look to a deeper mystery of life we ended up calling “the gods”, or “god”, or “God”.

Our ancestors have intuited in some fashion the existence of a deeper sacred Mystery surrounding them. Our older ancestors attributed some “divine-ness” to the might of Thunder, or the majestic height of the Mountain, or the mysterious depth of the Ocean. Whether out of just mere respect, or out of recognizing some prior-existent sense of “other-ness”, we’ve imbued a sacredness to some moving elements of nature. Over time, others did this with the depths of the Mind, the Psyche. Still as mysterious, still as moving… but with religious ritual removed.

Did we – as a species – recognize the inherent meaning of something… a meaning already there? Or did we just imbue meaning to something that had none to begin with? It’s sort of a moot point, because we did it! All across the world. Over and over again! Perhaps from the very beginning of our species.
And over time, we ended up wrapping these elements of life with ritual and custom and practices. Some ended up becoming (from a “healthy persons” perspective – of our dominant world view) pretty harmful and destructive, while others are still meaningful to many today. We ended up building “religions” from these believes and customs. We ended up constructing theologies – understandings of the divine – around these religions.

Back to my point – I don’t know of a religion that doesn’t in some way -some how, some way- point towards a better “tomorrow” for its adherents to live towards.

And many religions have in their backgrounds a sacred story of the death and rebirth of a god, or many gods, or some divine being. There’s an element of resurrection in dozens of stories, of cultures; from the Central American Mayas to the Norse to the many Ancient Near Eastern religions (Egyptian, Babylonian, Jewish, Canaanite, Persian, and many more). Now, to be fair, there certainly exist distinctions between the various traditions regarding the nature of the resurrection… but there’s no denying this idea is there.

So, this is a pretty basic human tendency… to not only “see” some divine-ness out there – some how, some way. But also, as a species, we’ve also recognized – in some form or fashion – New Life… Resurrection! ...Becuase it’s in us to do this!

This is also profoundly a God-thing as well! Of course this is opinion (mine), but it’s not that far from what’s observed through history. It’s like we’re – as a species – hard-wired for this God-stuff! When did we -as human beings- start imbuing life mile-stones with meaning? When did we start recognizing sacredness in different elements of nature? When did we “invent” religion? Maybe it was always there in us to do these things. And it seems we did this all across the world. Now, we don’t have to agree with all the religions out there, but holy cow (see how I did that?!) we’ve always done this!

Sure, today we are able to scientifically explain how thunder and lightning work, and we can see that “up there” is just empty interstellar space. But plain ole thunder and lightning has inspired many an “enlightened” soul… and “just space”… I mean, even if you don’t believe in God, ya gotta be pretty dead inside to not have some sense of awe when looking up into interstellar beauty!

So, while some enlightened and rational “moderns” who’ve evolved beyond religion and gods, they also look at creation (or some elements of it) with their own version of a deep respect for the sacred. And even us “enlightened” ones… those modern cultures that seemed to have generally jettisoned religion and theism from their cultures, still have some sense of respect for the idea of New Life in their own way. They may have some national folk stories that lift up the idea of working through hardship towards a better life, some national themes of a better dawn coming from a dark night.

The oldest account of King Arthur comes from William of Monmouth -Historia Regum Britaniae- written in 1136. It tells the story of Arthur and Camelot. Who he was, where he came from, what he did for the people of the time (the ancestors of what would become the British people). Of course "King Arthur" as the story tells, didn't really exist. But that's not the point.

The point is that this is a story that tries to explain a "source" for the people of Britain AS the people of Britain. Arthur succeeds not only in uniting the kingdom, but uniting the people under one strong, wise and benevolent leader.

The story culminates in the battle of Camlan where both Arthur and Mordred are mortally wounded. Arthur is placed on a boat and floated down river to the mystical Isle of Avalon where his wounds are tended to. As with much of the story, Avalon lays in the mist between the world of humans and the world of the spirits. In this place, in this story perhaps, the mist is thin indeed. Arthur is said to be buried under a hill, where he and his knights rest… waiting to come to the aid of their beloved Britain when they are needed again!

Sure- we may recognize these stories as made up. But we may also recognize the deeper truth they represent! All this to say – we just can’t help it!

But that’s a Big Picture look. Let’s look a little more down to our own levels, where we tend to live and work. We’ve all experienced, and will continue to experience, our own deaths; the loss of a relationship, the loss of a job, the dark struggle of depression, an ending of some part of life… these or others, realities of deaths we’ve faced in our lives.

But we’ve also experienced resurrections in some form! If we look deep enough, I can’t imagine anyone NOT having had some kind of life-giving experience of a New Day! I have to believe we have all -in some way or other- felt the call to come back to life again come back to life again after some loss or other. This is also a Resurrection!

So, our story as Christians is The Tomb Is Empty! Alleluia, He is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! We say this, not only because we are human beings, but because we believe!

I believe in Resurrection! I’ve seen too much, heard too much, felt too much, experienced too much to NOT believe in resurrection! I’ve seen people who’ve struggled with addictions, who’ve felt the darkness of addiction… come back to life again! It doesn’t always happen, for sure… but it can! Resurrection – New Life is indeed a possibility!

Why did our immigrant ancestors decide to cross an ocean, embark on a dangerous journey, to come here to what would become the Unite States? Well, for whatever reason, you can beter bet they didn't do it on a lark! It's probably a safe bet to say they didn;t do this becaus they were bored. It's probably a safe bet to say they were looking to some form of "resurrection". Still today, across teh world, people leave everything they know; their social networks, their homes, their jobs (if they have any), a lot of their stuff... because they are looking for new life!

I’ve known some who’ve been in that terrible place after the ending of a relationship -either through death or divorce… but have been able to find life again! If resurrection is finding new life again, coming back to life again from the dead… then this is Resurrection!

Like green shoots of Spring slowly working their way through the softening ground after the apparent death of a cold dark winter… we have always had in us a propensity to slowly look for life… to slowly make our way back to life… after a season of death and destruction. We have the seeds of resurrection in us!

That’s why we -as a species- have told these stories of Resurrection! Over and over again, in all their varieties, in all the cultures, in all the places across the globe… we tell this story! We Christians have this story in the story of Jesus, that repeats this truth! Resurrection is real!

I wasn’t threatened when I recognized this… I was left in awe! I recognized the deep sacredness we humans have always had in us.

And in all this, I have been struck by the Redemptive quality of Resurrection… how in our lives, in our resurrections, we can come to recognize a sense of debt; debt to our families – our spouses/significant others, to our parents and grandparents, to all our ancestors who walked before us, who set the stage for us; debt to our friends – who supported us; debt to strangers maybe – who perhaps in particular moments, when the planets and stars aligned, helped us find light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe as we grow in age and mature in wisdom, we come to recognize the significance of the redemptive mature of our resurrections… and recognizing the debts that go with them… debts that may indeed never be repaid, and as a consequence move us to a deeper sense of gratitude.

“I can’t ever repay this… but thank you! Thank you! Thank you for my life!”

A striking fictional visual expression of this is the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, from 20+ years ago. It’s a World War II movie that follows an Infantry squad that's tasked with finding and rescuing the only surviving son of a particular family, right after the Normandy invasion in June of 1944.
They go through adventures and challenges to get to this private – and they are able to save him… but at a cost, of almost everyone in that squad.

As the last battle is almost over, Private Ryan, who’s now safe finally, is at the side of the mortally wounded leader of the squad, Captain Miller. Miller looks at Ryan, and with his dying breaths, says; “Earn this! Earn this!”

The movie then shifts to Ryan, many decades later, an elderly man by now, walking along the grave markers of the Normandy cemetery. He finds the grave maker he’s looking for – Captain John H. Miller. And all his memories seem to come back.

He recognizes not only was his life saved, but so were the lives of his children and grandchildren – present with him at that cemetery. (Interestingly, the number of his family present with him there equal the same number of lives it took to save him.)

He falls to his knees in front of the marker – his wife and family a respectful distance to give him and the spirits privacy. His family may or may not have known any of the story of his rescue, but we – the audience – do know… we do know the cost for his life and the lives of all his descendants after him.

“Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.”

By this point his wife has come to his side. He turns to her, “Tell me I’ve led a good life.” – Did I live well enough to honor their sacrifice? – “Tell me I’m a good man.”

She’s surprised at first, looking from her husband to the grave marker and back to her husband. Initially she's not sure what's happening. But then she becomes aware there’s something profoundly meaningful there to him.

“You are!”, she says.

In any resurrection story, I think there’s a redemption story – a story of the cost for New Life, and a story of how the unfolding New Life relates to that cost. And in this, we can’t help but feel a deep recognition of gratitude!

I dare ask you to think of a time you went through a death of some kind – a deep challenge, a dark night… and found the dawn breaking into a New Day for you later… a Resurrection. Your “coming back to life again” was probably the result, the help, of many others around you; their prayers, their holding you up, their working behind the scenes!

For sure, you may have done some hard work too! But more often than not, there’s so many others involved in our resurrections.

When I was first in the Army, I was part of a 12-man team. Among all our training and exercises, we also trained to compete in a yearly Ranger Challenge competition – testing our Infantry skills against teams from other units. The last event was a grueling 10 mile run with combat load (uniform and boots of course, load bearing equipment, our rucks filled with about 50lbs worth of basic soldier gear, and rifle).

It was grueling because we were competing against other teams, all of us trying to win. And to win, of course, we had to run as fast as possible. The rules were that during the run we had to stay together as a team – we had to start and end together.

I participated in about three of these competitions. One of those years, during the run, at about mile 7.5, one of the guys on our team just completely “lost it”. He must not have been drinking enough fluids, and for sure not replacing any of his electrolytes. He just stopped functioning properly – screaming, flailing, getting all crazy… then he just quit.

Well, mostly. From the waist up, he was non-functional. From the waist down however, he kept running (drive on!).

But... we did have a bit of a problem on our hands. So we quickly arranged ourselves to take up the slack. One of us held him up on his left side, another held him up on his right side, and I held up his ruck behind him… and as Forrest Gump said… we “just kept on running!”

This is a long story to talk about redemption and New Life – but it works! Sometimes people hold us up on our hard walk to Resurrection! Sometimes they hold us up on our sides when we can’t do it ourselves. Sometimes they pray for us when we can’t pray for ourselves. They do this because they love us. Because they love us… what they wouldn’t do for us!

And this is the story of our faith. What God wouldn’t do to lead the people to the Promised Land! What God wouldn’t do to bless the people. What God wouldn’t do for the people in the life of Jesus.

The cost paid for empty tomb leads to New Life!

This Easter story is a deeply redemptive one! It’s a way to tell us God’s love for us is deep enough, is profound enough, is wide enough… to lead to New Life. And at the cosmic level, that cost is already paid.

This story of the empty tomb is a way of saying to us, from God’s perspective – you… your resurrection… is worth ANY price!


 

Friday, March 30, 2018

LENTEN MOMENT





Considering today is the day we remember and commemorate Jesus's crucifixion here are a few things to look at; one is a poem - that touches in soul, while the other is a linked article that touches the intellect.

The poem is from a Franciscan Friar, Brother Scott Surrency, wrote a good poem for Good Friday - “Can you drink the cup?” It equally challenges our lives, while inviting us in to a new life.


Can you drink the cup?
Drink, not survey or analyze,
ponder or scrutinize –
from a distance.
But drink – imbibe, ingest,
take into you so that it becomes a piece of your inmost self.
And not with cautious sips
that barely moisten your lips,
but with audacious drafts
that spill down your chin and onto your chest.
(Forget decorum – reserve would give offense.)

Can you drink the cup?
The cup of rejection and opposition,
betrayal and regret.
Like vinegar and gall,
pungent and tart,
making you wince and recoil.
But not only that – for the cup is deceptively deep –
there are hopes and joys in there, too,
like thrilling champagne with bubbles
that tickle your nose on New Year’s Eve,
and fleeting moments of almost – almost – sheer ecstasy
that last as long as an eye-blink, or a champagne bubble,
but mysteriously satisfy and sustain.

Can you drink the cup?
Yes, you — with your insecurities,
visible and invisible.
You with the doubts that nibble around the edges
and the ones that devour in one great big gulp.
You with your impetuous starts and youth-like bursts of love and devotion.
You with your giving up too soon – or too late – and being tyrannically hard on yourself.
You with your Yes, but’s and I’m sorry’s – again.
Yes, you – but with my grace.

Can you drink the cup?
Can I drink the cup?
Yes.




And here the article (food for the intellect) with thanks from Dave D. for leading me to this!

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2015/06/why-they-killed-jesus-2/




Thursday, March 29, 2018

LENTEN MOMENT




Lenten Meditation


A portion of a recent message from our Bishop - a reminder to us all in this (church) time of seeing death AND life again as part of our reality!
Here is his timely quote from Arch Bishop Oscar Romero


“We do not celebrate merely a Christ who rose without us. We are empowered to rise with him to a new life - To become precisely those new people needed today.” - Oscar Romero


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Lenten Moment





Here is a poem from Rumi, a 13th century Persian scholar, theologian, and mystic.   He is well known in spirituality circles for his poems, calling the reader to a transcendence of institution, into a deeper union with the Holy.

Here is a Rumi poem entitled “I’ll Meet You There”:


I’ll Meet You There
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing 
and right doing
 there is a field. 
I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase 
“each other”
doesn’t make any sense.


By: Rumi







Monday, March 26, 2018

Lenten Message






There’s book from about 20 years or more ago entitled “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction” – by Eugene Peterson.  I was intrigued by the title…  A long obedience in the same direction. 

We are a nation of Seekers.  On surveys, and perhaps even in personal conversation, people often self-identify as interested in spirituality.  The Pew Research group, that organization that keeps their metaphoric fingers on the spiritual pulse of the American public, often reflects the US public as still very interested in spiritual matters while at the same time less and less committed to the traditional Institutional religions. 

We really do believe there are answers out there.  We really do believe there is something out there.  If only we could find that which we are looking for.  So we seek, we keep looking.  We as Americans still believe!   We do believe.  We’re still a people of “faith”…  “faith” being more and more what we want it to mean.  We look for God, for the Spirit, for the “answer”.  We do indeed seek.   

I remember reading somewhere that if “spirituality” (and things of the Spirit) were underground water, we’d be well-diggers.  We’d be looking for that water!   But, I remember the writer going on, we have had more and more of a tendency to usually not dig any one well deep enough to hit the water-table. 

We find a place that seems appealing and start digging.  But perhaps we get a little bored of digging in that place (maybe because we don’t see anything happening), so we walk over to another more attractive location and start digging for water there.  And if nothing very interesting happens there… we move on to another -in our eyes- more interesting place to dig.       

The write reflects on us as a spiritual culture, saying that while we as a whole have a tendency towards spiritual matters, we are less and less likely to commit to any one particular spiritual discipline long enough to gain the deepest measure of benefit from them – even if the tradition is one we’ve formed out of our own searching.  Before the well we’re digging has gotten deep enough, we’ve quit that well, and have started digging another one somewhere else. 

The writers’ point was we dabble in spirituality, without the long-term commitment to any one practice or discipline of spirituality.  Now this may not necessarily be true for us individually, but it seems to be a collective experience.   

But how can we know what “style” of spirituality fits us best unless we try them?  How can we know what “brand” of religion is the best one for us?  How can we commit to a particular discipline if we don’t know where it will lead?  How can we commit to a particular practice, if we don’t know whether it’s the right one for us?    

There really is so much out there to try!   They are indeed important questions – the answers to which can certainly help us on our spiritual journey.  I’m really not knocking this “discovery” process in any way.   But I also recognize that at some point in our maturation, we are called to find a place… and steadily dig in one location until we find that well of clear, life-enriching, water.  

I had a seminary professor that would often say, “the bible does not reveal its secrets to disinterested passers-by.”  Well, maybe it does a little, but I do get his point that – like anything worthwhile in life – depth comes from persistence.  And this is certainly true with matters of the Spirit as well.   

Polls seem to indicate we’re certainly not disinterested… but maybe more seeking without the discipline of patience – long patience

So, as Americans, we’re – generally speaking – not too attracted to a long obedience in the same direction.  It’s certainly fun and interesting to read the latest books on spirituality, prayer, meditation, etc.  But the truth is, reading books -and more books- about meditation (as interesting as they may be) can’t replace the years and years of practicing meditation… and gaining the benefits of this practice. 

There are indeed pros’ and con’s of both travelling as a tourist and of being a permanent resident of any particular place.  Seeing new places is fun, and there’s a lot to learn for sure.   But certainly the obvious difference is the permanent resident knows the place in a much deeper way… a way the tourist could never know.   One could spend a life “touring” – visiting, seeing new places (even coming back to some old places… for a while).  But usually after a while, we end up picking a place to life in– to actually live in.   

It’s certainly not a bad thing to read about different spiritual practices, or even to experiment with different disciplines… but I wonder more and more if that can’t ever replace a spirituality of a long obedience in the same direction.   

Spiritual practices are similar to travelling and living in other areas; each experience is different in its own way.  But if we wish to gain the longer lasting benefits and elements of a deeper experience, we must put the time in to learn what it feels like to “live” somewhere long enough.  We must be willing to put the time in to develop the disciplines of patient dedication.  We must be willing to invest the time of practice.  Like with international travel, while visiting can certainly be fun… the deeper wisdoms and benefits of long-experience in a place will always elude the tourist.      

A Long Obedience In The Same Direction

Certainly a growing challenge to us all… but -like wells- the benefits are deep and plentiful!   







Saturday, March 24, 2018

LENTEN MOMENT





   Simplicity

         Another message of our 
                     Lenten journey.


A moment...   
               ...just a moment...  
                         to remember to simplify.

It's always a challenge 
        in our lives 
                 to Simplify:
                          Image result for images simplicity




                         Image result for images simplicity





Image result for images simplicity




    But it's a challenge 
         worth pursuing.



                     It's good for 
                        the mind,
                        the heart,
                        and the soul 


Thursday, March 22, 2018

LENTEN MOMENT




Lent... a geat time for Mindfullness
Here's a Lenten Poem from pastor Rob Bell with a reminder to be mindfull!


WALK DON’T RUN
         By Rob Bell

Walk, don’t run.
That’s it.
Walk, don’t run.

Slow down, breathe deeply,
and open your eyes because there’s
a whole world right here within this one. The bush doesn’t suddenly catch on fire, it’s been burning the whole time.

Moses is simply moving
slowly enough to see it. And when he does,
he takes off his sandals.
Not because
the ground has suddenly become holy,
but because he’s just now becoming aware that
the ground has been holy the whole time.

Efficiency is not God’s highest goal for your life,
neither is busyness,
or how many things you can get done in one day,
or speed, or even success.

But walking,
which leads to seeing,
now that’s something.
That’s the invitation for every one of us today,
and everyday, in every conversation, interaction,
event, and moment: to walk, not run. And in doing so,
to see a whole world right here within this one.