Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Younger Voices

November 12, 2019

The door opened behind me to the room where the small group I lead meets. Then it closed. She was looking for someplace specific–and not us. One of the women in class commented, “She is probably too young for this group.”

I thought, “It would be good for us to have some younger voices.”

Look at our national political scene. Most likely the Republicans will run with someone even older than I. The leading Democrats are also older than me except one who is about the same age. Can’t the Boomers let go and let some younger voices enter? We’ve certainly screwed things up enough over the past 30 years or so.

I had a dream the other night. I was at another engineering conference. There were the usual old white guys–smart, but often set in their ways. The scene flipped to a chorus of kids (like 10 years old in my dream) offering a myriad of new approaches and ideas to problems.

Most likely Jesus was only 30 when his ministry began. Most likely John (the apostle) was still in his teens. The other guys were young guys, too.

They changed the world.

I still learn and have ideas. But it’s refreshing to listen to younger voices and remember the struggles of figuring it all out.

It’s time.

What? Me Worry?

November 11, 2019

Mad Magazine’s mascot was Alfred E. Neuman. He ran for president in 1968. He got votes. He’s a cartoon character. And you thought today’s politics were goofy.

His motto was, “What? Me worry?”

Actually, that’s not bad advice.

Jesus once said, “Why worry? Will you add a minute to your life by worrying?”

I hear conversations often speculating about one thing or another about heaven or hell. We don’t know. We can parse through all the writings collected as the Bible and only have hints.

Will worrying about all that add anything to your life?

In school, I was told about the medieval Scholastics arguing about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

Why?

There is enough to do to just live this minute trying to do our best. Worrying won’t help.

Maybe if we just chill.

Casting Out Demons

November 8, 2019

Jesus just gave the word and people were cured of their demons. He touched them and cured them of physical disease and disability.

But I started to consider that we still refer to many illnesses as being demons. Some mental health issues are chemical and require drugs for healing. Most of us can’t do that. Some are so deep seated that they require a professional.

We can help drive out many demons. Maybe it starts with breakfast and listening. A weekly meet up for coffee. Maybe we just can’t say, “Be healed” and it happens. But I wonder how many people we could help with a little care.

Things our churches could do instead of dividing the sheep from the goats, labeling ourselves the sheep, and declaring the goats bad. Then we herd together every week and celebrate our sheepness.

Or, we could be like Jesus.

Lack of Love

November 7, 2019

I have a thought starter for the day. Actually, it should be a day-starter. How can I change to change the problem?

“It is not because of religion that the world is suffering; it is from a lack of love.”

Just to add fuel–what was Jesus commandment? Love God and love your neighbor (which he defined quite broadly).

Looking for Love in All The Wrong Places

November 6, 2019

(Sorry Willie)

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceedsc to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at homed and ate their food with glad and generouse hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” — Acts 2

Recently I scanned through some news sources. Yes, I do see political news, but I adamantly shun those media whose method is to raise emotions in order to keep viewers glued to the site/channel in order to sell more advertising. (Hi, Fox, MSNBC, Facebook.)

I had an overwhelming sense of anxiety, fear, loss of belonging among people leaving a hole in the heart that politicians were scrambling to fill.

But, I thought, where are the churches? Compounding the problem?

And I recalled Acts 2. The church was generous and caring and had the goodwill of all the people.

Does that sound like a description of today? What can we do about it?

Working With People Not Pointing At

November 5, 2019

What if…?

What if we are not meant to be Christians pointing out the demons and flaws of other people implying that we are perfect?

What if we are to be followers of Jesus who, like him, walked alongside people with demons and hurts and concerns helping bring healing and wholeness while still working on ourselves?

Sometimes We Miss The Extraordinary

November 4, 2019

The Gospel of Mark uses short stories, almost like snapshots, to show Jesus’ actions. And it moves quickly from scene to scene. If you blink, you miss something.

Where I am teaching, Jesus goes into Gentile territory. The story is filled with things anathema to Jewish people. It doesn’t seem to bother him. He cures a man with many demons. It’s a totally unclean place.

He gets into a boat and immediately (Mark’s favorite word, I think) goes to a Jewish town. Crowds press around. A leading citizen who is named asks for healing for his daughter, but Jesus feels power released. “Who touched me?” His friends say something like “Duh, everyone is touching you. It’s a crowd.”

But a woman comes forward and confesses. She touched him believing she would be healed from a disease that makes her unclean, outcast from the community. Touching Jesus makes him unclean. He doesn’t care. He calls her Daughter meaning she’s accepted back into the family. Tells her she’s healed.

Without doing any purification ritual from the Gentiles to the woman, he proceeds to restore the leader’s daughter to life.

We attended a Dayton Pops Orchestra performance of Rogers and Hammerstein music. The program was constructed and moderated by the grandson of Oscar Hammerstein. He pointed out that, as much as we love the music, we might miss the fact that Hammerstein wrote on many themes long before they were accepted by American society. He put black people and white people on stage together in somewhat equal roles (Carousel); he wrote a play about black people starring black people (Carmen Jones); about how ranchers and farmers (all us people) need to get along together to build a great state (Oklahoma); about speaking up to authority (The King and I); and sticking it to the Nazis (The Sound of Music).

We live in a time of deep divisions, not only America but everywhere. What are we all doing to bring people together and move society into a more compassionate place? How are we crossing boundaries to bring healing?

They Think Too Much

November 1, 2019

I told my wife the other day when she came home with questions about 2,000 years or more of theology, “You are going to think this is strange or ironic coming from me, but sometimes people think too much.”

The ancient Greeks noticed that sometimes we humans have a tendency to think we know more than we do. We act pompous or arrogant because we are smarter, wiser, more knowledgeable than others. They called this hubris. Then they wrote stories about men who had too much of themselves–and how they fell.

The ancient Hebrew people also noticed this. They wrote a proverb, “Pride goeth before a fall.”

We today are prone to take an assumption, maybe based on fact and maybe just myth or tradition or just made up, and then construct a philosophy or theology. Or we take the bait when someone else does that and “know” that we “know the truth.” Not all of us, of course, but far too many.

In the 13th Century, Thomas Aquinas, thought by many to be the Catholic Church’s greatest theologian, wrote a huge work of many volumes called the Summa Theologica. But for the last several years of his life he wrote or even spoke little.

After all that work and thinking, Aquinas said that the to know God in the highest form is to know God as the Unknown.

We can have the hubris of thinking we’ve uncovered the truth of what God is. Or, we can accept the mystery in humility that God is.

Exercising Power With Knowledge

October 31, 2019

Two farmers were discussing life one day, and one started bragging about his kid going to college. She’s getting a BS, MS, and Ph.D., he said. “What’s that,” replied the other farmer.

“Well, you know what BS is?” he asked. “Yes,” came the reply.

“MS is more of the same, and PhD is piled higher and deeper,” explained the proud father.

I first heard that little joke when I was 10. I experienced it first hand when I was 20.

It’s similar to the comment about specialization of academia, that the more you study, you know more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing.

Seneca, the ancient Stoic philosopher, noticed this sort of thing 2,000 years ago. He complained about people who could speculate for hours about whether the Iliad or the Odyssey was written first or who the author was. “Far too many good brains have been afflicted by the pointless enthusiasm for useless knowledge.”

Do you find too many church people like this? They speculate endlessly about an obscure verse in the Bible and miss the point of Jesus’s mission.

Problems ensue when they settle on an interpretation and use that to tell people what to believe. They attempt to control the thoughts of those around them.

It’s that power problem in a different guise.

It’s also the opposite of the “Acts 2 church” where people were attracted by the life the people were living not by being forced to agree with some arcane interpretation of a writing. It’s not a state of knowledge; it is a state of being.

The Wrong Kind of Power

October 30, 2019

Back in the year 30, the ethos or worldview of society centered on power. As in, I have power and you don’t–sorry about your luck.

Every relationship was about who got to make and enforce the rules. From family to community to Rome and the Temple.

We need the constant reminder of how revolutionary Jesus was. He shunned political power. He could have had it. But it was the wrong way to go.

I think the worst moment in Christian history was when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome. Bishops went from being underground teaching in secretive house churches to having wealth and power.

The church went from attracting people by the joyous way they lived to forcing people to belong because it was the official religion of the Empire.

But Jesus, (remember him? The story was about him.), both taught and lived a worldview of each individual having a changed life. It’s not about forcing others to live like we tell them. That’s what the Pharisees and the Temple rulers did.

Jesus changed individual lives.

Before worrying about someone else and what they do, better to focus on changing yourself.