We come to the desert at least as much for what is not here as much as for what is. Monastics of every religion are drawn to it. Moses encountered God in a bush on a desert mountain. The first theologians of Christianity were known as the Desert Fathers. In wilderness they prayed, meditated, contemplated – uncluttering their hearts and minds in an uncluttered space. Mohammed went to a desert cave and there he waited until the Angel Gabriel dictated the Koran to him. Around the same time, Buddhist monks retreated to the mountainous deserts of Central Asia to meditate.read more
I think Christian missionaries should live among the people exhibiting their Christianity in their daily lives. If the people see something in their lives that is missing in their own lives they will ask about it, which gives the missionary permission to tell them about their faith.read more
For Christians grace is God’s gift of pardon. According to William Barclay the Greek word for grace was originally a military term. When an emperor came to the throne or celebrated a birthday, he would give his troops a donatirim (donation), which was a free gift that they had not earned; it was given out of the goodness of the emperor’s heart. This idea was picked up by the Christian scripture writers when they wrote about the grace of God. Grace is something that is unearned and undeserved – unmerited pardon.read more
I think we need some method of communicating with God and prayer is the logical answer. But prayer in which we stop everything we are doing, get down on our knees, fold our hands and pray is not my idea of prayer. I think we should try to communicate with God any time we have a second to think about God or ask God to be with a loved one or friend, or share anything in our life with God. While driving, when watching TV, while on the lake alone, working in the garden, any of those times and many more, we should take a moment to commune (talk, whatever word you want to use) with God. It may be that those moments are more for us than for God, but I like to think that God listens and cares. I admit that I get awfully frustrated when I feel God is not listening because my petitions are not immediately answered in the way that I have requested. I know God’s answer may be “no,” but that is difficult to swallow.read more
Can we actually believe that because Eve persuaded Adam to eat a forbidden apple the entire human race is doomed to hell? Can we truly believe that for several thousand years there was no chance for any human to be saved, even though none of them had anything to do with Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden? Isn’t it ludicrous that a child born today is doomed because Adam and Eve disobeyed God? That creation/damnation scheme sounds more like devil-worship than God-worship.read more
When it comes to the existence of the devil, people normally have one of two reactions: they dismiss the devil and scoff at the idea that there is such an entity, or they exalt the devil, and attribute far more to him (or it) than is deserved. In a recent Gallup poll, 70% of Americans believe in the devil. Half of those surveyed believe that he (this evil force is most often referred to in masculine terms) is a personal force, while the other half believes he is an impersonal force.
Let us see what the Bible says about Satan, the devil and the evil one.
The central focus for Christian liturgy is the ritual Eucharist. Traditionally Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”) has reenacted the last meal Jesus ate with his followers before the blood sacrifice of his execution at the hands of the Romans, but with the dogmatic interpretation that Jesus died to save sinners from hell in the next life. Twenty-first century progressive Christians are concerned more with living a life of justice-compassion here and now (as Jesus taught) than reconciling with a god that demands blood sacrifice in exchange for a carefree afterlife. What is required is to act with justice-compassion in radical abandonment of self-interest. Suppose that instead of terrorizing ourselves with the Advent of violent judgment, we were to celebrate the Advent of the Christ consciousness; instead of a Eucharist mourning the personal holocaust of Jesus’s death, a Eucharist of Ordination, in which we recommit ourselves to the great work of distributive justice-compassion? We have the power, at any moment, to transform the way we live our lives. We can choose not to participate in the retributive system of imperial war and systemic injustice. We can step into the kind of ongoing parallel universe of God’s justice-compassion at any moment. We can change our consciousness, change the paradigm in which we live, whenever we have the will to do so. Jesus is not coming again. We are; and when the rare opportunity presents itself, we can break the alabaster jar in remembrance of her.read more
Bonhoeffer believed that in the future a religionless Christianity—stripped of its religious garments—would be limited to two things: prayer and action.3 He believed that through these two acts Christians would learn to see the world from a new perspective, with the eyes of those at the bottom of society—the people that Matthew called “the least of these.” For Bonhoeffer, prayer—especially intercessory prayer—becomes important because it creates a powerful sense of empathy and solidarity with the people one brings before God. This, in turn, motivates one to engage in “righteous” action—the seeking of justice in human society.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
We need to subject the resurrection stories of the New Testament to the same critical analysis as we did the crucifixion. So let us examine Paul’s writings and the gospels in an attempt to discover what the event we call Easter really was.read more
The church sign can be easily read by anyone driving by: “You can’t be a devoted follower of Jesus unless you are part of a local church.” Does the church that posts this sign not trust the people with Jesus’s message? What is the meaning of “incarnation” if not “embodiment” by individual persons of the spirit of the Christ? Is the “Body of Christ” for members only?
The Apostle Paul created the metaphor of the “Body of Christ” as the community of followers. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, he explains the meaning of the ritually-shared meal: “The cup of God’s gracious benefits that we consecrate means that we are involved in the blood of the Anointed, doesn’t it? The bread that we break means that we are involved in the body of the Anointed, doesn’t it? That there is one loaf means that we who are many constitute one body, because we all partake of the one loaf.” In Romans 12:5 he says, “Just as each of us has one body with many parts that do not all have the same function, so although there are many of us, we are the Anointed’s body, interrelated with one another.”read more
So what do I mean by a sacred community or spiritual community, or as Peck would call it a true community? I refer here to an intentional community with an identifiable common purpose. Maybe that purpose is simple to grow spiritually as individuals. It is a community where one can transcend oneself and experience a sense of the interconnectedness of life. It is a community in which each member seeks to see and relate to the divine or the sacred in the other.read more