Reclaiming #mysticism, #prophets & #christianity in Grounded

You probably haven’t noticed this, but prophets are often outside the fold of the norm in scripture.

Whether its Elisha, Elijah or Jesus himself it is difficult for those who stand outside of religion and claim a relationship with God to fit.

This is, no doubt, because humans long for “normatives” we long for a checklist by which to live our lives, some way to say this is the right (and only) way to be in relationship with God and each other.

Of course if we were created to be that way we wouldn’t be the multi-faceted, every learning, gender-fluid beings we are. Our spirituality and sexuality would not exist in complex relationship to each other, and our experience of the world would be all the same.

Its amazing that Christianity has plateaued into a “normative” state for so long.

In Diana Butler Bass’s book she reclaims the ordinary-earth, water, fire and air. She claims them as ways to experience God in mystical and tactile & experiential ways.

Because these days, when people of all ages have been burned by institutions (whether they be courts or government, schools or churches, scouts or libraries) and are highly suspicious of institutional wisdom.

Experience, instead, informs.

Diana Butler Bass talks about our experiences in the following ways…”Adam and Eve are made from hums, placed in Go’ds garden, and directed to care for the soil from which they came….” Land “is the source, the material basis, of the food supply (no dirt, no food, no us); or it may be viewed through the eyes of spiritual awareness, as part of a divine ecosystem….disregarding the ground is sinful and evil” p. 43

Humans are made of dirt ”

And Diana Butler Bass puts poetic narrative to her experience, allowing life to be mystical and mysterious in its particularity and beautiful & beloved in its multiplicity and shared interactions.

She dignifies the spiritual awareness that so many has, with a well reasoned personal narrative, grounded in scripture touching on the ideas of God as home, neighborhood as a state of being and the hospitality of creating a commons to dwell in.

“Spirituality is about personal experience–the deep erealization that dirt is good, water is holy, the sky holds wonder; that we are part of a great web of life, our home is in God, and our moral life is entwined with that of our neighbor.”

None of that tells us a checklist to be healthy, wealthy and wise, “it is about tracing the threads of the interconnected universe.” 238

Diana Butler Bass explores the spiritual revolution as it is unfolding today. I highly recommend reading with an open mind, to understand God, and just how accessible Xi is.

Personally as a pastor, I love to learn about how people understand God to be in their lives, and to me church is/should be the place where we share our differences to enrich our own faith. I hope that mystics are heard especially when they are not understood and help us to change into whatever church is being born today….

 

 

 

 

 

 

I #believe in #miracles, and other weird #Christian things…

http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Matthew+3:1-12&vnum=yes&version=nrsv

Ps. 2:7-8

7I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you.

8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”

baptism of the Lord

Brownson says that Baptism is not Salvation, but the promise of salvation. It is the faith in that promise, it is the acknowledgment that our God is a Promisekeeping God

Baptism particularizes the promise that God makes to the world.

Why?

God promises to love the world, to take care of it, to save it.  Baptism, adopts us into that promise, particularizing it into us…embracing us into the reality of Jesus Christ, making us part of it all…We are all children of God in general, baptism, makes us each children of God as individuals; Matt 28:19-20 baptize them in the name of the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit and teach them my commandments, and I will be with you always..making us effectively related to God (effectively changing all our last names to be Jesus Christ). Hence my name becomes Katy Jesus Christ–thus I become part of the body of God!

babies-diverse_istock_000010072649large1

Every single baby that is born is a miracle. Babies being born are so,

so miraculous…child-of-god

but your baby being born is a PARTICULAR miracle…Right? I mean all babies are amazing, but your baby (whether its yours, your friends, your child’s baby, if you have ownership) is SUPER-EXTRA AMAZING..because its your particular baby. Baptism is special for that same reason.

Baptism…and Communion are sacraments…for Presbyterians there are two such sacraments; which are another weird thing that Christians do.

That’s what makes a sacrament, a sacrament in the Presbyterian church a sacrament is that which Jesus enacted, commanded and then promised particular presence during…

This is my body broken for you…this is my blood of the new covenant

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That’s after all, what a miracle is…its seeing God’s particular presence in a particular circumstance, its when you don’t know how or when things happen, but they do, through God’s presence. Its different than magic, which is when you explain the unexplainable….Miracles are about grace-filled instances which happen through God making connections that we might not expect

Ever time we practice communion or baptism, God promises to be particularly present. God is present and loves us all the time, but the fact that God promises to be particularly present with these moments …make them miracles

Like a roof that needs to be fixed, and suddenly a bequest appears that covers it….like a lesbian couple who end up not getting married at the church but force the governing board to extend welcome to such a wedding…like having way, wayyyy too much work to do and suddenly a snow day gives you the extra time you need.

These moments are miracles, places where our humanity is insufficient, and yet God’s presences helps things to work out….

These moments are the difference between Spirituality & Religion

Spirituality is talking about who God is…and what God does in general…a generalized understanding of God and how it effects spiritual life. Spirituality is good…its practiced by most people, even those who don’t go to church.

Religion is (nothing more & nothing less) than the practice of God’s presence, the practice of miracles. The practice of seeings where God is present, participating it and then telling others about it. It is through this practice that we are joined together. We recognize and practice God’s presence, together.

body-of-christ

Its just like practicing family–practicing family can be as easy as having dinner together…you plan the dinner together, experience the dinner together and then discuss how dinner went (maybe with people who aren’t even your family)…Each of those steps are within the practice of the miracle that is family…

So too is communion…we prepare for communion declaring what it will be (how it binds us to God and eachother), then we practice it together, then we discuss how it went and what it means for our future…in this we practice the miracle of God’s presence. We do this every time we talk look for/experience/witness to God’s presence in our lives….

Let’s go practice some miracles….

(thanks to Barb Hedges-Goettl for the theology of Christ’s transformative presence in communion)

God Gives Enough Bread

Right after Jesus Christ Feeds a Billion people (slight exaggeration) with some crumbs of bread and fish oil (again hyperbolically speaking)….* He then speaks of himself as the bread of life. One where he references the story of Moses, God and Manna… An often overlooked piece of this story is when they gather the bread (Ex: 16:17-18)
” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.” Here we have another miracle, just like the fishes and the loaves story, where everyone has enough to eat. It doesn’t matter how much they actually gathered, God provides.

In a Spiritual not religious world, I find this immensely comforting. In a world obsessed with Work (see this great: work as the new religion article here), in a world where expectation are often viewed as entitlement, in  world where “doing” things is more important than “being” things (ministry of presence, anyone? anyone? Bueller?)

Churches too often fall into the sin of work-righteousness: that’s the sin where you think what you do is more important than what God does for you, its the one where Pride literally goes before fall–from grace**. It is why church’s tend to emphasize programs instead of people, and quantity over quality of relationships. (As my mom says, better to be a great small church than the Mall of Churches where we try to do everything).

So here’s the deal. Going to church does not mean that you have more access to God. What going to church should mean is that you are willing to support one another for God, that you want to journey with others to God, that you prioritize your relationship with God and others and that you want praising God to be a thing you regularly do in your life.

God promises that there is enough nourishment, enough measure for each of us.

And God also promises that one day we will have enough, we will be nourished. One day we will be full

***

When my grandmother was incommunicative from a fall, she also didn’t want to eat. Without, her (or our) consent the hospital put a feeding tube in

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Here’s the thing, I believe that there may be a time when an older person doesn’t feel hungry anymore. Its not that they are starving (which truly is a horrifying image, which is why I think the hospital put the feeding tube in). No one wants to starve grandma. But I don’t think my grandmother was starving, I think she was full, full of life, nourished by God and done with what she wanted to do. She had, had her measure. And her years were different than my grandfather’s (who had died some years before), but although they worked a different amount of time, like the Hebrews, each of them got their measure of life. At times, I think we feel like people (especially children) didn’t get their full measure, how could they when their time was so different? But, somehow, God promises that they did. And so maybe people are accessing God differently, I know my parents weren’t following twitter, reading fantasy and publishing blogs as a part of their spiritual lives, but it doesn’t make my measure any more, or any less, than other people of faith.

So why church? Because its another way for us to find community and nourishment, when so often our shares seem to be different than everyone else’s, church means we get to share in the measures of faith others have, instead of just depending, worrying, keeping up with our own. It frees us to be varied and unique, to be communal and sharing in our measures of faith. So church then becomes part of our relationships , instead of a measure of our faith….

*despite the hyperbolic Katyisms, I totally believe this miracle actually took place…

**look, look I used literally correctly!

This sounds just like “Bible Study”…what’s different about all of this?

My Presbytery is trying to explore the whole 1,001 worshipping communities/church planting. 

As we did we talked over exciting interest for starting a house church in the college area…

 

and we were discussing how to go about, different ideas and resources (i.e. Messy Church etc.)

and someone asked “Can someone tell me, how this is different from a Bible Study? I mean we do this, we get to better in different houses and worship and get together what is different about this?”

Well……I might have said a few things in response 🙂

1. Its not that different but we are reformed and always reforming because we need to find new ways to tell the gospel message. Clothing Exchanges are not that different from Rummage Sales (as one of my congregants pointed out). But they ARE different because they speak to a different generation in a different way!

2. We need to meet people where they are in a tree, by a well, even on the cross. If that is what Jesus is doing then that’s what we should do too. 

3. Because we need to show our willingness to see, know, people in places that AREN’T the church. When people say they are Spiritual-but-not-religious they mean they want to reach God, but they don’t want to reach God in the same way we do, so we need to find ways that work for people. Ways in which they are comfortable. Thank God, the message is the same as what it was  over 2000 years ago, even though the method changes

4. Aren’t we reformed and always reforming so we can grow and be nurtured closer to Christ? Don’t we hope that we keep looking at ways to become more able to see God?

5. Because its not exactly the same, it seems the same, but its really not. Because we are saying, come to our Game, Come to our Home Field, Come to our Turf and we’ll tell you about how we do the God thing. Its not simply sitting inside the church and throwing open the doors and wondering why no one is coming in…its going out to meeting them on their turf…its street ministry at its finest.Its changes to a “you might not experience God the same way we do, so we’ll come to you and let you tell us what you want to try” thing…that’s what Spiritual-but-not-religious is, experiencing God in a new way!

 

Your right, its exactly like Bible Study…..Only Different!

 

 

“I don’t believe it, but I’m sticking to it. That’s my definition of faith.”

“I don’t believe it, but I’m sticking to it. That’s my definition of faith.”

My Brief Theology of Belief vs. Faith

Belief is individual

Faith is communal

 

Belief is confessional

Faith is God given

 

Belief is about structuring the world

Faith is letting go to God’s plans

 

Beliefs are what we hang onto 

Faith is what hangs onto us

 

Belief is what we are working on

Faith is what the church works on

Spiritual & Religious Chart

When people say they are spiritual not religious, they are often indicating that they do not hold the “beliefs” purported/preached/encouraged (or forced) by religion. What they are trying to verbalize is their journey of faith, and the importance of it.

Here there is a little known dichotomy between belief and faith. Church should be a place to nurture faith, but spiritual people often see belief as getting in the way. (note epistus în the New Testament is often translated as belief, but it really means faith. “Belief” is only present in 2 Tim 13:11)

Belief                                                                 Faith

•Telling Our Story (our picture)                   •Telling God’s Story (God is bigger)

Belief                                                                 Faith

•tenants that help us frame the world         • the seed that can grow                              (                                                                                 (Mustard Seed of Faith Luke 17:3-6)

                                                                  Belief                                                                 Faith

•as far as humans can go: stretching to limits       • letting go—> to who God is                                                                                                       (Where were you when earth was formed Job 38)

Belief                                                                 Faith

•individual                                                        •communal                                                                                                                                           (Why church? so that the community can support you with faith even when you can’t)

Belief                                                                 Faith

•something we hang onto                                •what holds onto to us when we are lost                                                                                        (Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32)

Belief                                                                 Faith

• things we say to define ourselves                 •something to come home to                                                                                                             (Heaven is like…Matthew 13: 31-32)

Think One Person Can Change the World?????

We do too

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That’s where they got me. I mean I was pretty sure that Oberlin was the undergraduate program for me. I had talked to the dweeby guy, stood up to my counselor “You sure you want to move that far away” (um…DUH I hate high school), and all, but when I got the packet with Oberlin’s old motto, it got me.

I also probably should have realized that I was going to be a minister then, because I was kind of like one person has changed the world (ie Jesus) and he has totally empowered me to do the sameImage

…ah the confidence of youth….

But if you know me, I am the eternal optimist, so I hopefully haven’t become too cynical since then, even though the world keeps on giving me worst and worst news….bad economy, little jobs, sucky compensation for work done, the evaporation of pension funds, the need to put off life (marriage, house, children etc) due to the aforementioned problems, wars, fiscal cliffs, national debts and taxes.

However I believe there has been a cultural shift in the last election–it hasn’t really to do with the president but more the fact that racism and bigotry has been limited due to the backlash for some representatives comments Re; gays, women, abortion, etc.

Part of that change was examined in my last post Open Source Culture (Go Millenials!)

Thanks to a recent conversation with my philosophical compadre Charlie, I have crystalized some of what I have been writing towards in the last couple of posts. (PS he totally pointed out that at least in a democracy we all have a vote that is value–talk about power)Image

Churches need to do the following to Change the World

Build a Community that

1. Forgives Debts: That’s right, be proactive, do a kickstart, open donations, find some way to address indidividual’s debts in your community–I suggest starting with student debt since that is the least questionable kind of debt. What if we as the church worked to communally Forgive as many debts as possible?

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2. Be multigenerational: Church is one of the few places where different generations interact who are not related. Embrace this. Keep young people in church, give them a special space to be look at one example. If we make those connections that otherwise can’t be made, then we are providing a service. (and of course this means making worship accessible to those spiritual but not religious people).

3. Finally Educate, educate, educate. Why are people in debt? In pursuit of education. What if church’s provided free community education: relieving debt and bringing generations together in one fell swoop (HA, wouldn’t that be wonderful?) I would love to spearhead a million different educational opportunities for my community, because that is a concrete way of helping people.

THink one church can change the world????

I’m not crazy…

Ok, I guess that is debatable…I mean who else thinks that establishing a church through Sci Fi/Fantasy is their calling?

But often I think that this is the message I want to get out…I’m Christian, not Crazy.

Just because I believe in God

Just because I try (and fail and then try again) to put God’s love and hospitality into practice does not make me an extremist, bigot, loony or uneducated person. In fact it doesn’t make me liberal/conservative, rich/poor, smart/dumb, etc. That’s the point. ImageChristianity is supposed to be noncontextual (for an ironic moment watch a pastor talk about how bigotry succeeds at being ultimately noncontexual as well http://gawker.com/5953357/missouri-pastors-fiery-speech-against-equal-rights-for-homosexuals-has-stunning-twist-ending)

Christianity should be without context. And when I say I’m Christian, I would love for that to mean that I think outside the box, not that I am stereotypical (cause I’m not)

When I say I’m Christian, that means that the most important thing to me is God’s graciousness, and when I look at the world, it is hard for me to think that we were a random happenstance of nature. And the fact that I was created and I, in turn, try to create things, is an important part to figuring out my life…

It does not mean I’m going to push my beliefs on you, that I hate everyone else out there or I’m going to be judgmental–it simply means that to me, God enriches my life….

That is all….