I thought I’d pretty well covered the territory in a “musing” I wrote a few years ago called “The Varieties of God”, a listing of the many alternatives along the spectrum between traditional theism and atheism. But Ryan Bell has added a new one: provisional atheism. Godlessness for the time being. He’s gone public with this status, and I intend to follow his “Year Without God” blog to see how it goes for him.read more
Being a child of God – for Jesus and for the rest of us – is a poetic way of describing our direct, personal engagement with Ultimate Reality. It is an artful expression of ourselves as physically integrated with the divine essence of the cosmos. Being the son or daughter of God does not mean that any of us can leap off the cross in a single bound.read more
The dry bones raised by Ezekiel are a metaphor for those who died in the service of God’s justice: those who died working to restore God’s distributive justice-compassion to God’s Earth, and who themselves never saw the transformation. The army of dry bones is an army exiled from justice. Fairness demands that if Jesus was resurrected into an Earth transformed into God’s realm of justice-compassion, then all the other martyrs who died too soon should also be raised with him. “But in fact,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” It is the Christ – the transformed and transfigured post-Easter Jesus – who has started that general resurrection, which restores justice-compassion to a transformed Earth. The transformation has begun with Jesus, and continues with you and me – IF we sign on to the program.read more
Presider: God be with you.
People: And also with you.
Presider: Open your hearts.
People: We open our hearts to God.
A growing number of progressive Christians, for a decade or more, have seen themselves less and less of being a theist, that is as one who believes in a ‘God out there’ who intervenes with and over rules the laws of nature. Yet many of these are still very happy to use the words Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Trinitarian descriptor expresses the way in which Christians may encounter or interpret our ‘God’, but ‘God’ is much more. For many progressive Christians, the Trinity is an expression of different people and communities living in perfect harmony. Now that really is heaven on earth!read more
I’d like to invite you into a conversation we’ve been having at the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael these last weeks of Lent, a conversation about evolution and faith. We’re not talking about a six day creation, with God resting on the seventh. I really, really hope that argument’s over and done with. No, we’re talking about evolution as the way in which everything unfolds in all of creation. We are looking at a creation that evolves and opens towards unity, or shalom, in the presence of God.read more
A Lenten tradition in Western Christianity is to meditate upon the journey Christ took to Calvary. These stations or steps are found both in the Scriptures and in the traditions and legends of catholic Christianity. For many this practice is used to participate in the suffering and sacrifice endured by Christ. I encourage you to also take up this journey seeing within each station a calling for the modern, progressive Christian to grow in the ways and love of God. Meditate upon each station considering the questions or thoughts presented with a Scriptural verse to ponder and a brief prayer of the heart. In John 15:12 Jesus tells us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Only by walking with Christ and seeing just how much he truly loved everyone can we begin to love others in the same fashion.read more
Beatitude Nine: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”read more
Our personal journeys through Lent are associated with a symbolic wilderness, but we need not wander there without direction. “The Way” is the title of a poignant painting that hangs during Lent above the altar in the …read more
Beatitude Six: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
“No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (l John 4: 12) It is through the heart that we experience God directly.
We walk in silence while the earth
Quivers and cracks beneath our feet
Swallows our dreams and shatters worth
Solemn, we trudge to hearts’ dull beat.
Beatitude Seven: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Beatitude Eight: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Station Twelve: Jesus dies on the cross.
Avowed atheist Susan Jacoby recently created a dust up with a recent article in the New York Times Sunday Review entitled, “The Blessings of Atheism.” She wrote in response to all the god-talk that appeared in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown massacre; with all those unanswerable questions or inadequate answers to human suffering and death so often peddled in popular religious belief.
So too, not long ago author and “non-believer,” Christopher Hitchen’s posthumously published his little book Mortality; recounting his rambling thoughts on his own imminent demise; after a terminal diagnosis left him a sufficient number of days to find himself “deported from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.”
But what, or where to, after that? What if this really is all there is?
It seems there has always been the human hankering to imagine all kinds of fanciful notions, in our attempts to recapitulate our mortal existence into something more than it is. Many religious traditions, including centuries of “mainline” orthodox Christianity, employ great mythic stories to describe a life subsumed into something greater than we can either know, or grasp, except by “faith.” Heaven knows, some folks try to better themselves, merely in the hope of a remote possibility there something more, after our death, which is a certainty. But in the end, is it all dust and ashes? And is that OK?
This is the liturgical time of year when many in the Christian tradition undergo a seasonal pilgrimage in which the faithful are reminded at the onset we mortals are nothing more than dust. And so we will one day return to that from whence we came. Then the traditional forty days end with the perennial re-enactment of a passion play commemorating the mortal demise of the one whom Christians even these many centuries later would profess to follow.
Many do so in the hope of some kind of immortality for themselves in some indecipherable form or other; attributing to Jesus a “resurrection” that means the same thing to them as god-like immortality; while others of us may find such imaginings to be not only reasonably implausible, but of less importance than what we take to be of greater significance and meaning in this faith tradition.
Otherwise, the vainglorious hope of immortality can become so enshrouded in our mortal fears that we become – like Lazarus in his early grave – so wrapped up in death that we fail to truly acknowledge and appreciate the gift of our mortality for what it is; nothing more, nor less.
With the certain assurance then that we are but dust and ash, we can ask ourselves if the gift of our mortality is not only enough, but more than enough? And if so, as the psalmist says, how then shall we “number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom?” (Psalm 90:12)read more
Beatitude Five: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Jesus was merciful, but didn’t receive mercy. He forgave the people who were about to kill him, but they killed him anyway. Yet we are still haunted by his assertion of the possibility of a world in which mercy works both ways.
Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday… a worship service from Soul Link Faith Community, a new church plant in Mansfield PA. The pastor’s story follows the order of worship.read more
JOHN MARK, the gospel novel written by Christopher Epting, came to life in Jerusalem. While on a sabbatical there at St. George’s College, he felt inspired to enter more deeply into the biblical story by focusing his mind and heart on the very first gospel ever to be written, the one attributed to St. Mark. But who was this Saint? And how did he come to create a literary masterpiece that would open the door for others, for Matthew, Luke and John, to follow?read more
(This poem, which I wrote during Lent in 1981, appears in my book, BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS – it is based on Numbers 21: 4-9, John 3: 13-15) THE GIFT No one’s raised who did not fall No …read more