What Owns You?

8 Oct

Good Morning,

Now that I am old it is easier to see what kinds of things have owned me.  It is not big stuff, like drugs or alcohol, sex,  but, small, insidious things like chocolate, worry, resentment, a need for approval . . .   Mine were not big, socially unacceptable addictions, but they still owned me.  And, truly I tell you, the only force I want owning me it the Divine Presence.

Reading Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, and practicing fasting, has been a great way to find the things that hold me.  Things that lead my life into bondage, rather than freedom.  I have ended up using churchy words, but it is hard to find other one.  When I let worry or anger or even chocolate be the force of power in my life, I become imprisoned by it.  It becomes the central thought in my head.  And, that’s the place I want God’s heart, is in my head.

19 I’m using this freedom language because it’s easy to picture. You can readily recall, can’t you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God’s freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?

20-21 As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.

22-23 But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

The freedom of God is amazing.  It brings new and creative and life-giving opportunities; it breaks out of old routines, and old concepts.  This is the power of the resurrection at work in my life.  I pray you are enjoying this amazing, unpredictable, journey of faith.   Peace

Hello Out There – Let’s Go With Freedom

7 Oct


Good Morning,

According to the stats on my blog site, one person is viewing this blog.  Hi, Phyllis.

Anyway,  I am going to try to blog more consistently, especially since the Orioles are done for the season.

I left you have part of the way into Romans 6.  Paul is constructing a Christians theology out of the stories of Jesus, and his experience of indwelling of the Divine.  I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases Romans 6:12-18

12-14 That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.

From Peterson’s paraphrase, I wonder what I am giving a vote in conducting my life?  Fear, Anger, Old Pain, New Slights.  If I consider that I want the freedom of God, the resurrection power of the Divine to rule my life, then I had better knock out all that other stuff the wrangles it’s way into my choices.

“Sin can’t tell me how to live.”  Maybe that should be our mantra for the day.  Or think of it this way, caterpillar ways are not useful for a butterfly.  So live like the people that God has created us to be, in this new life in Christ.  Which brings us to Paul’s next point, and people’s propensity. . . Wanting to do whatever we want.

15-18 So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!

One of the wonderful gift of our Christian faith is the pairing of freedom and servant-hood.  We are free to be God’s children and serve the Divine creation.  This would be really hard to wrap our heads around if we didn’t have the example of Jesus of Nazareth.  It is that life that show the beautiful rhythm of freedom in God and serve to others.

We have a really cool faith.  Enjoy this days journey.  Peace,

Watered Down Symbol

14 Sep

Good morning,

Have you ever thought of the fact that there is not a record of Jesus baptizing anyone, and yet it is a sacrament (holy rite) of most Christian churches.  There have been long and heated discussions about baptism over the centuries.  As United Methodist we baptize the way the Episcopal Church (Church of England) does and they baptize the way the Catholic Church does.  For all the division that have occurred in the Christian church there are many things that remain the same.

So, as a United Methodist, I am almost always baptizing an infant with a little water on the head.  I often believe that the deep in the parents hearts it is their insurance policy for their child that they will not go to hell (a very Catholic belief), even if they won’t admit to this as a motivating factor.  It is a kind of “cover all the bases” ritual.

Paul’s words in the beginning of the 6th chapter of Romans is so much more powerful than our watered down version of baptism.  In The Message it is even more wonderful.

1-3 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

3-5 That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

Probably walking into a river fully clothed, lower under the water by an officiant, and being raised up will not make baptism the powerful symbol is could be. (Actually I have done the whole ‘river thing’ when I was 20.) But, at least educating ourselves on this image of baptism and letting it seep into our souls would be a good thing.

6-11 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.

Paul’s words are powerful.  For those of us who have been baptized in whatever way, our old lives are nailed to the cross with Christ and we have a resurrection life to live.  I believe God intention was to set us free from the deadness of sin and give us a relationship with the Divine Presence that bring the power of a liberated life.  How often I talk with people, Christians, who are trapped by old pain, old hurt, old disappointment; not seeing the truth of baptism or the resurrection life that is theirs for the living.

I have found that much, almost all, of my Christian life becomes a ‘mental activity.’  By understanding the powerful symbols of our faith we can step out into a new life, a new world; our for the living.  Even though our minds cannot grasp the full of the Divine, we can understand the nature of the relationship of new life offered to us; let is seep into our souls and live in a way that bring glory to Eternal creator.

If you are a Christian living with the old ‘sin life’ then you are denying the incredible transformation being of Christ, so sure as Peter deny Jesus around the campfire the night before his death.

I know I get preachy, but the gift that has been offered to this world is too important, too incredible to be watered down by our religious institutions, but our tired and small minds.

Imagine the possibilities, talk with God, walk the way of Christ, enjoy this moment of eternal life.  Peace

Story, Symbols, Choices

5 Sep

Good morning,

The letter to the Romans is one long discussion of what it means that God was revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  For Paul’s argument he take a story of the Jewish faith and uses it as a symbol to describe what God is doing through the life and death of Jesus.

The only good new is that in Paul’s version of the Fall from Grace, Eve does not get the blame for Adam’s choice.  The bad news is that Paul’s focus probably means that women don’t even count into the equation of what God is doing in the salvation history he describes.

So, the story is that Adam made the choice to not listen to the warning of God.  Adam set his will over and against the will of God and therefore brought death to the human race.  (Have you ever thought that the harsh environment in which these creation stories were written is did literally mean death if you did not listen to the wisdom of the Elders. – my brain does weird things.)  Paul’s uses this a symbol of one man bringing death, so he can get to the punchline of one man bringing life – Jesus.

It is so sad that we (I) usually leave the story there:  Adam = bad; Jesus = good.  But, I don’t have to prove the point that Paul did about eternal life in Jesus, because we are all on board with that idea.  So, I can think about the nature of the men he proposes and think about the choices that lead to life in the presence of the eternal.  In The Message, One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.  

We have the story, made into symbols and it all comes down to choice.  A choice to say yes or no to The Divine.

Please take time to read these 9 verses.  They are from The Message and easy to read.

12-14 You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it.

15-17 Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?

18-19 Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.

20-21 All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace.When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.

Paul’s argument is that The Law does not bring righteousness (right living) of life.  But relationship, grace, brings righteousness – right living – eternal living.  This living is which has an awareness of the Divine Presence bring wholeness and holiness.  It is choosing for God, each day, each moment considering our response to life circumstances and finding The Way.

I think this is the real problem with Paul placing the “sin” on Adam’s shoulders.  It makes us distant from us, AND it makes us believe that simply believing in “the other guy” is sufficient for right living.  But actually it is not believing in Jesus as much as living like Jesus (not the robe and sandals) but the choices and relationship with the eternal, ever-present God.  Wow, that’s harder.  So, much for a holiday weekend.  The Good News is that God is there, helping us, holding us up, and enabling us to walk the path of light and grace.


Reconsidering sacrifice

31 Aug

Paul’s understanding of Jesus as a blood sacrifice is not helpful for me.  I do not live in a time when people are ritually put to death to appease “the gods”.  I also do not live in a time where the worship of God requires the sacrifice of animals.  So, it just not a helpful way of looking at what happen to Jesus’ death.

As I write these words, I think how wonderful it would be to release Christianity from this concept of substitutional sacrifice that has become as ingrained in our theology.  In any case, I am done with it.

The next question is what to do with the rest of chapter 5 which expresses this idea.  Certainly, Jesus’ life was lived in a sacrificial way.  He talked with people who were socially beneath him in order to tell them about the authentic nature of the Divine .  He argued with people who believed themselves socially above him to tell them about the authentic nature of the Divine. And he walked with people who would listen to him so he could show them the authentic nature of the Divine.  His life was one of willing submission to the work he was given to do by the leading of God’s spirit.

Read Romans 5:6-11 and see if you understand anything differently

6-8 Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

9-11 Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!

So now I come to a question for myself and you.  As those who follow the risen Christ and believe in the work begun by Jesus of Nazareth and enjoy the grace of God in our lives, what are we willing to sacrifice in honor of God?

Don’t get worried, I was just thinking about an hour on Sunday morning and uninterrupted time each day to talk with God.  What do you think?  Who knows where it would lead?


The Gift of being OLD!!

29 Aug

Many times in the last few months I have told folks what a gift it is to be old.  Perhaps you don’t see this since youth and beauty and unbounded energy is all that is advertised, but, the gift of being old is knowing what you like and what clothes work for you, and how stupid it is to be really concerned about what others think of you.  It is great to be old.  To survive life and find joy along the journey.  This is how Eugene Peterson paraphrases it.

I have always love Romans 5:1-5 and now even more.  Paul is talking about the realization of God’s grace in our lives and how that can cause us to rejoice in good times and even grow through the tough times.

1-2 By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

3-5 There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Imagine that our cultures obsession with containers (OK, my obsession with containers) is just to hold everything God has generously poured into our lives.   That would be a great idea to put into our heads.

I will be honest that sometimes my head goes to the ‘dark side’, thoughts of what used to be and isn’t anymore, thoughts of what will be, wondering about decisions made.  It is an effort and a wonderful thing to put my head and heart in the presence moment where my body is.  To seek the Divine Presence and remember that even with all my containers, I do not have enough to hold all that God has given to me.

My sweet church on the mountain has a hymnal that is not United Methodist.  It has taken me awhile to get the hang of it, but the other morning during a Congregational Choice Hymn I found that, “Count Your Blessings” is in their hymnal.  So, count your many blessings, count them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done.

It is a get way to fill your head.  Paul knew about trials and hardship, I know about them too.  And, like Paul, I am convinced it the way forward is through, with the Divine Presence our constant companion and guide.  Peace,


Universal Salvation

26 Aug

The concept of universal salvation (everybody getting into heaven) is attributed to “liberal theologians” in the era.  However, the first person to give an understanding of universal acceptance was Jesus of Nazareth. Note: he got in trouble for this because the religious authorities wanted believe they had the power to say who was in and who was out.  Then, Paul reinforced these ideas, and actions of God in his letter to the Romans.  Paul also got in trouble with this because he refused to affirm that the ‘old laws’ of Judaism needed to be carried over to the ‘new faith’ of Christianity-he was condemned by all sides.  Then, finally when Martian Luther started translating the Scripture so that anyone could read them (again in got in trouble for translating) he claimed that people were “saved by faith only”.  Again, he was in huge trouble because the Roman Catholic church was making a lot of money from ‘selling salvation’.

When I look at our faith traditions from this lens and read again Eugene Peterson’s translation, God’s promise arrives as pure gift, I think that the idea of universal salvation is not a new one.  So the good news it that Paul makes sure everyone knows that they are included in the promise of God.

16 This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father.

17-18 We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”

19-25 Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

The even better news it that God is the one who fulfills the promise, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.  

So often we are trying travel our Christian life on our own steam.  But here, Paul reminds us that it is God who is the actor in our faith story and we are just the partners who follow where the Divine Presence leads.  We are invited into relationship with the Eternal Creating Spirit, invited to find healing, wholeness, holiness, and purpose for our earth bound, time bound, limited vision existence.  It seems like a no-brainer, but sure enough, we will probably get in trouble when we say everyone is included no matter what – it is a part of our faith history.  Peace


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