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Meditation 12/4/12 Reflection on the Incarnation

December 4th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Here is a reflection on the Incarnation, the theological focus of Advent & Christmas.  It comes from the Right Reverend Larry Maze, the retired Bishop of Arkansas.  I found it in “The Rose,” a journal publication of Emmanuel Church in Athens, Georgia, vol. 20.

“I’ve long held the hope that the whole world’s love of Christmas has to do with a longing for a God who participates in the flesh and blood realities of where and how we live.  So many Christians seem to believe that God lives somewhere else and looks on us from afar.  It is a good thing that at least once a year we entertain the expectation that God and flesh and blood might be connected, if even for a holiday.”

I find these words to be a nice articulation of the deeper elements of the Advent & Christmas season.  Here are some words about Bishop Maze from this edition of “The Rose.”  “He continues to be fascinated by the clear connection between Jungian thought and Christian spirituality… (and) …he tries to instill the message that inner work is not an interesting hobby, but likely the most important work we have to do.”  I’ve long used Advent at our church as an opportunity to engage folks in an opportunity, at least for the four weeks of Advent, for some of that important inner work.  There is plenty of outer work to do during Advent, but some inner work provides a good balance.

May your 2012 Advent bring about deeper inner work in your soul.

Meditation 11/30/12 Preparation for the Incarnation

November 30th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

This Sunday begins Advent of 2012.  Advent has become my favorite time of the church year.  Here is an aid for Advent from Richard Rohr.  Rohr’s daily email meditations can be accessed at http://www.cacradicalgrace.org/.

“When we demand satisfaction of one another, when we demand any completion to history on our terms, when we demand that our anxiety or any dissatisfaction be taken away, saying, as it were, “Why weren’t you this for me? Why didn’t life do that for me?” we are refusing to say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” We are refusing to hold out for the full picture that is always given in time by God.  When we set out to seek our private happiness, we often create an idol that is sure to topple. Any attempts to protect any full and private happiness in the midst of so much public suffering have to be based on illusion about the nature of the world in which we live. We can only do that if we block ourselves from a certain degree of reality and refuse solidarity with “the other side” of everything, even the other side of ourselves.”

Advent is the time of preparation for the Incarnation.  It is a time of rich and wonderful music, and some of these emails will focus on some of the music.  Advent, along with Lent, is a good opportunity to make special devotional efforts.  We will be using “Jesus, Beloved Son” by Henri J.M. Nouwen.  What do you do for Advent?

May this season deepen your faith, as you prepare for the gift of Christ.

Meditation 11/27/12 Jump Consciousness

November 27th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I receive daily meditations from Richard Rohr, and I know that several of you do as well, for you have told me.  These daily email meditations can be accessed at http://www.cacradicalgrace.org/.  Here is one that greatly inspired me which was sent out on Oct. 24, 2012.

“The clarification and rediscovery of what I am going to call the True Self lays a solid foundation—and a clear initial goal—for all religion.  You cannot build any serious spiritual house if you do not first find something solid and foundational to build on—inside yourself.  “Like knows like” is the principle.  God-in-you already knows, loves, and serves God in everything else.  All you can do is fully jump on board.

I would call that jump consciousness, and I believe the Risen Christ is the icon of full consciousness.  In the human mind of Christ, every part of creation knows itself as (1) divinely conceived, (2) beloved of God, (3) crucified, and (4) finally reborn.  He carries us across with him, assures us it is okay, and thus models the full journey and final direction of consciousness.  That is my major thesis about how Jesus “saves us.”

What so inspired me was the very concise way Rohr sums up the benefits of Christ in only four short phrases or words.  I can only admire Rohr’s brevity and accuracy.  Well, actually I also envy it, but I’ll say that quietly!

May the God in you make more frequent contact with the God in everything else.

Meditation 11/20/12 The Symphony of Science

November 20th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve made occasional reference to NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.  I like this site so much that I have it on my browser menu bar and look at the picture for every day.  The other day one so inspired me that I pass it on to you.  It is produced by a group called “Symphony of Science” which does all kinds of fun stuff.  Check out their videos here.

Here is what they say about themselves.

“The Symphony of Science is a musical project of John D Boswell, designed to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form. The project owes its existence in large measure to the classic PBS Series Cosmos, by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steve Soter, as well as all the other featured figures and visuals. Continuation of the videos relies on generous support from fans and followers. You can make a donation if you wish to contribute support to the project. Thanks to everybody who has donated – enjoy what you find.”

I love the idea of being artistically creative with science.  It makes me think even of dancing with science!

May you be inspired by the wonders of God’s world and blessed by the inspired creativity of many of God’s children.

Meditation 11/16/12 Heart and Courage

November 16th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Another American hero, in my mind anyway, passed away last month.  That was Russell Means, an American Indian rights activist and, later in his life, an actor.  I didn’t agree with many of the things Means did and stood for, but his courage and his heart for American Indians (his preferred term for what might also be called Native Americans) stand out for me.  I have spent many of my years working with our Native American Presbyterians in the Synod of southern California.

The LA Times obituary had several things to say and I quote some of them here.

“Means refused to undergo heavy doses of radiation and chemotherapy. Instead, he reportedly battled the disease with traditional native remedies and received treatments at an alternative cancer center in Scottsdale, AZ.”

“In joining the fledgling American Indian Movement in 1969, Means later wrote, he had found a new purpose in life and vowed to “get in the white man’s face until he gave me and my people our just due.”

Wounded Knee restored our dignity and pride as a people,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2002.  “It sparked a cultural renaissance, a spiritual revolution that grounded us.”

Quoting Tim Giago, retired editor and publisher of the Native Sun News in Rapid city, S.D., “If he had followed a peaceful demonstration like those two great leaders did (referring to M.L. King & M. Gandhi), I think he would have had much more support from the American people that I think he lost when he turned to violence.  As a matter of fact, he lost the support of a lot of Native Americans when he resorted to violence.”

Again, Means did things I disagree with, but he had the courage to stand up for Native Americans in a new way, and encouraged more people to seek justice for our own first nations.  May he rest in peace and continue to be an inspiration to American Indians.

Meditation 11/13/12 Observing Veterans’ Day

November 13th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

This is two days late, but is in recognition of Veteran’s Day.  This prayer comes from the book “Prayers for Healing,” edited by Maggie Oman, Conari Press, 1997.
“Almighty God, grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil, and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice among people and nations.”
Her notes indicate this is adapted from the Episcopalian “Book of Common Prayer” but I couldn’t find it there. It’s a great prayer and captures an essence of Veteran’s Day that I appreciate.  Did you do anything special in observance of the day? May God bless your appreciation of all those who work for the betterment of the lives of all of us.

Meditation 11/9/12 McGovern

November 9th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

This is a tribute to George McGovern, who died Oct. 21.  It comes from Christian Century magazine.  The specific article can be found here.  Some of you will be old enough to recall McGovern’s run for the presidency in 1972.  He was soundly trounced by Whittier’s own Richard Nixon.  McGovern’s Christian faith is one of the facts about his life that struck me.  Here are some points about it, from this article.

  • He was … a churchgoing humanitarian who in the 1960s directed the new Food for Peace Program and a forward-looking politician informed by the Social Gospel;
  • He was a pioneering force behind the school lunch program here in the United States;
  • in 2002, “McGovern said that a proposed $48 billion increase in military spending was a mistake . . . that ‘security’ was bound up in how we feed and clothe the poor and hungry, not merely how well we were armed militarily.”
  • McGovern emulated John Wesley, founder of Methodism.

That is my kind of politician.  Read the whole article to get a larger picture of this man.  Would that other defeated presidential contenders could leave such Christian witness as a legacy.  Jimmy Carter comes to mind also.  I’m reminded that Jesus calls his followers “the salt of the earth” and I’ve always taken that to mean we are the seasoning, not the whole meal.  May we continue to occasionally be inspired by Christian politicians.

Meditation 11/6/12 Centered

November 6th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

On a busy day like today’s election day, it is good to remember there is a center where we can find a sense of focus, and maybe some calm too.  Here is an excerpt from Joyce Rupp’s “Fragments of Your Ancient Name” addressing the issue of centeredness.

When undulating activities tilt our days
And threaten to throw us off balance,
When prayer strains under pressures
Of not-enough-time and nothing-happens,
When those we care about are pained
And we nearly cave in from our caring,
You continue to be a hub of stillness,
A nucleus of love, our core equilibrium.
No matter how out of control we spin,
You remain the peaceful Center for us.

Our world should calm down some once the election is over, but there will continue to be other pressures, both inside and outside of us.  These words from Rupp can serve us 24/7.  May you retain a centeredness in your faith on this day and all days.

Meditation 11/2/12 Team work

November 2nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Apparently the Amish have two sides to their communal nature, as do all other religious groups.  The Oct. 17, 2012 edition of Christian Century magazine gives coverage to both sides.  In one of the short articles in the “Century marks” section there was this:

“TEAMWORK:  someone asked an Amish farmer what community meant to him.  He said that whenever he and his son are finished with spring plowing, they let their horses rest at the highest point on their farm, where they can see 13 other teams of horses working the neighboring fields.  “I know that if I get sick or debilitated or die, those 13 teams will be at work on my farm” (told by Wendell Berry in Hedgehog Review, Summer).”

The same issue of the magazine tells the story of an Amish extremist and his followers who were found guilty of hate crimes.  This breakaway Amish bishop and his followers appear to have all the markings of a radical cult group, with bizarre punishments and free sex for the cult leader.  I’m saddened to hear of such behavior among the Amish, known for their ability to forgive deeply and exhibit some of the finer characteristics of Christianity.  But it reminds me that we are all human, capable of equally great love and great self-centeredness.

Where do you find the greatest inspiration from your faith?  What parts of your faith disappoint you, your own interior faith or the expressions of others who claim the same faith as yours?

May you grow through both the positive and negative elements of your faith.

Meditation 10/30/12 Storm Warnings

October 30th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

We are witnessing an apocalypse-sized storm on our east coast.  I suspect days will pass before we know the fuller impact and damage of this storm.  Here are some words about the continuing apocalypse that we live in.  They come from Walter Brueggemann, now retired from serving a life as an Old Testament scholar.  I found these words in the July, 1994 issue of “Interpretation” magazine, a journal of bible and theology out of Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA.  At that time (the mid 1990s) Brueggemann was comparing faithful living in the US with faithful living in other areas of the world, like Eastern Europe or South Africa.

“Ours is a more difficult place, and we are always tempted to imagine that were we somewhere else, things would be more obvious and compelling.  It may be that the ethos and lack of serious discourse in the cultural matrix of the US make ours a most difficult environment in which to utter holy words.  Despite all our talk about “freedom of speech,” serious human discourse has, in reality, all but disappeared among us.  Issues are not much joined.  Serious hope is scarcely practiced.  Deep hurt is largely unacknowledged.  Ours is a most co-opted climate for humanness, besot as we are with power, arrogant in our greed, confident in our technology, still belatedly determined to work our powerful will in the world, characteristically on the side of brutalizing power.  It is ironic indeed that, in this society so impressed with “freedom of speech,” holy speech of abiding astonishment can apparently be completely obliterated by technique.  The cost of such “progress” is enormous, even if little noticed.  This cost comes in the disappearance of a human infrastructure, in the erosion of public institutions of justice, health, and education, and in the emergence of a permanent and growing underclass; the ultimate cost, however, is an absence of political will to match resource to need.  Indeed, the drastic separation of resource from need in our society is done almost with the arrogance of virtue, the virtue of a nullified compassion.  The outcome of such a procedure is the breakdown of persons, families, communities, and institutions the near disappearance of what is humanness.”

Aside from apocalyptic storms, these are fitting words for most of he presidential campaigns I’ve seen in the last 18 years.  Money, power and technology themselves are not to blame here.  It is our misuse of them all that calls our faith practices to pay closer attention.  Brueggemann’s is one of those voices that reminds me of the deeper forces going on around me, calling me to deeper prayer.

What calls YOU to deeper prayer?

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