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Meditation 12/14/12 Compassion vs. Judgmental-ism

December 14th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I ran across something I want to share in a commentary on Luke 3:7-18, the text I’m preaching on this coming Sunday.  The commentator is the Rev. Wesley D. Avram, pastor of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.  His commentary is in the “Feasting on the Word” Commentary series, year C vol. 1.  I’m editing the quote with the words in parentheses.

“The classic question of character comes to mind, for each preacher (Christian) must determine with others what are the particular habits of pastoral (daily) and personal life that accomplish her (or his) credibility to name sin with compassion, to proclaim God’s forgiving Spirit, and to invite others to respond to that Spirit.”

I liked Avram’s implication that we are better & wiser if we name sins with compassion, not judgment.  We are living in a time when judgment has a bad reputation and many are leaving Christianity because they perceive it to be so judgmental.  Yet judgment and judgmental-ism are two different things.  Judgmental-ism is characterized by a critical and condemning attitude.  Yet judgment is important in living right, in discerning the difference between right and wrong, between something that will harm ourselves or harm others, and something that will be good for us or others.  So I guess the key is using compassion in our judgments, not judgmental-ism.  Perhaps if we used the word discernment instead of judgment, we would be safer.

Here are some quotes on judgmentalism:



What have you found that helps you understand the difference between compassion and judgmentalism?

May your Advent/Christmas time be a time of deepening holiness & respect.

Meditation 12/11/12 Christmas In Your Face

December 11th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

This is dedicated to my step father-in-law, Richard Nuffer, who passed away Dec. 5, 2012.

A couple of years ago I titled one of these emails “Christmas In Your Face!”  Here is what I said then:

“I don’t know about you but I get tired of the way some people make a big deal out of saying “Merry Christmas” and then go on to point out that it is “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays” or any other kind of greeting.  I understand the frustration that Christians can feel when confronted with the pressure of a secular or non-religious co-option of this Christian holiday.  But I’m not convinced that being in someone’s face with “Merry Christmas” is what Jesus would do.

My personal preference is still to say “Happy Holidays” to others because the end of December is not only the Christmas Holiday, but it leads to New Years Day as well.  That is an official holiday too, just like Christmas.  So when I see someone during December who I will not see until January, I include my wishes for the New Year as well as Christmas by saying “Happy Holidays.”  And that is not even thinking about those who celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa at the same time of year.”

Though so far this year I’ve not heard the kind of whining comments that prompted that email two years ago, I did run across a great link given me by my friend Deborah Arca at Patheos.  Watch that site, it’s big and can be very addicting!  Here’s the link from Ms Arca:


Broadening our understanding of Advent/Christmas, and the measure of respect for each other that might be part of Advent/Christmas can make the holiday time a more blessed and profound time.

May your Advent/Christmas time be a time of deepening holiness & respect.

Meditation 12/7/12 Advent Carols

December 7th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

One of my favorite events of Advent/Christmas is the broadcasting of the service of Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, England.  It is a mix of modern and ancient music and there is usually at least one piece commissioned annually for that event.  I have the equipment at home to record the broadcast and have done so for several years.  Last year the lyrics of a Medieval carol caught my attention, particularly the one verse that went like this:

As sunnë shineth through the glass,

So Jesu in his mother was;

Thee to serve now grant us grace,

O lux beata Trinitas.

The modern version would look something like this:

As sun shines through the glass,

So Jesus in his mother was;

Thee to serve now give us grace

O Trinity of blessed light.

What a great image, “sun shining through glass,” to image Jesus in Mary’s womb.  I’m reminded of how stained or colored glass can give such beauteous decoration to a room.  The metaphor of Jesus beautifully decorating life, and therefore deserving our praise and service inspires me.  You can see the lyrics for the whole carol here:

http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/files/services/festival-nine-lessons-2011.pdf, then go to p. 21.  King’s College Choir has a variety of resources here.

What is your favorite metaphor at Advent/Christmas?

May the blessings of Advent be yours today

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.