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    • James Burklo
    • Jim Burklo is an ordained United Church of Christ pastor who serves as the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. He is the author of BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS: Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians (2008) and OPEN CHRISTIANITY: Home By Another Road (2000) – both available from the “store ” at www.tcpc.org. Jim served as pastor of Sausalito (CA) Presbyterian Church, and of College Heights UCC Church in San Mateo, CA, served as ecumenical Protestant campus minister at Stanford University, and was the founder and executive director of the interfaith Urban Ministry of Palo Alto. His Masters of Divinity degree is from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Real Patriotism in a Troubled Election

We must have a plan - before, during, and after...

  There are literally hundreds of compelling public-policy based reasons for voting for Joe Biden and the Democrats in the upcoming election. But there is one reason that stands out far, far beyond all others: Donald J. …

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The Soul of America: A meditation on the spiritual foundation of the USA

In this election season, let us pray that our candidates speak in the rhetoric of this spiritual humility – for a change. America has a soul. Our nation’s heart is still burning to express our transcendent values through the structures of our society.

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Fighting Racism with Umlaut Restoration

A way to de-center "white centering"...

With a group of extended family members, all white, I’m in a book study group focused on “Me and White Racism” by Layla Saad. Together we’re reflecting on the ways we are personally implicated. It’s not a wallow in white guilt, but rather a bracing, clarifying look at what is, so that we can begin to see what could be.

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My Resources for Churches

(and everyone else!)

Every so often, I put out a “musing” that is a guide to my writings and videos. It’s that time when churches make plans for their program year, so this is a good moment to share links to my materials for worship, study, and spiritual practice.  Use freely.  All I ask is attribution!

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Is “progressive” an aspiration or an appellation?

By identifying ourselves and our churches explicitly as “progressive”, we have lifted our perspective on the faith to a much higher level of public awareness.  Our efforts have legitimized our understanding of Christianity, making it much more accessible to the growing number of Christians who yearn for an alternative way to understand and walk the way of Jesus.

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Dreams in a Time of Pandemic

And who are you, in this identity-shattering era through which we’re living?  Journaling your dreams and sharing them with others might help you answer that question….

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Staring at Bread: Making communion a spiritual practice

Annually, for several years, I visited the monastery of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, a beautiful compound north of downtown Tucson. I was amazed at the physical, mental, and spiritual liveliness of these mostly older women, and the level of their engagement with the world despite their mostly cloistered way of life.

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The People’s Pandemic Eucharist

Covid-19 has separated us from our officially-sanctioned holy places and sacred things.  The members of our church in Los Angeles yearn to get back to our beloved worship space.  But we are seizing this opportunity to turn the church inside out.  We are finding the sacred in the relationships we maintain with each other on computer screens, in the elements of communion we assemble from donuts and crackers and orange juice and coffee, and in the urban, indoor, and natural environments that have become our sanctuaries.

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My People: A Lamentation on Racism

Black lives matter.  Not at the expense of other lives.  By affirming that Black lives matter in this moment in history, all lives matter more. It is worth reflecting on why and how this is true.

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Sighs Too Deep

  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”  (St Paul, Romans 8: 26) I …

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Wisdom Calls

Wisdom is paying attention while refraining from the assumption that you understand everything about what you are observing.  Indeed, in order to pay full attention, we must release our grasp on what we do know, so that we make room in our hearts and minds for further knowledge. 

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Jesuses I Have Known

How mental illness reveals the truth of Christianity

After many such encounters, I began to realize that the seemingly random and disconnected utterances of people in psychosis often had very deep significance.  Their expressions were profound reflections of their subjective experience, windows into the souls of us all.  We take our inner lives for granted, not examining the structure of the psyche, until there is a breakdown.  Then its contents are revealed, and we get a look at its structure.   This inner architecture is amazing, but it’s not neat, tidy, and rational, so it can be a scary discovery.

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Deeper Attention: The Soul of Charles Darwin

To know something new requires un-knowing that you know it all.  Darwin’s epiphanies deliver the reader into this place of un-knowing, which opens us to the knowledge of what lies beyond.

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Sisar Canyon: A Meditation

A meditation for Peaks and Professors students at USC – with Rev. Jim Burklo, Sr Associate Dean, Office of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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Home By Another Road: A Post-Pandemic Vision

Wise men and women know that there are times when you can’t go back the way you came.  So it was for the three magi from the East, who, having caught the vision of the Christ in Bethlehem, knew they needed to take another road home. 

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Passion Week 2020: This Is Your Body

What forms do your communion elements take during this time of Shelter In Place?  See mine, below this entry… from Palm Sunday.  Mt Hollywood Church is urging people to take pix of their home-made communion elements – whether wine and bread, milk and cookies, juice and cereal – and posting them on social media

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Truth and Freedom: Resistance Bible Study

In the gospel of John, there is a long conversation in the Temple in Jerusalem between Jesus and his Pharisee detractors (John 8: 12-59).  Long, because they spent so much time arguing about their initial assumptions.  It ended badly, with the Pharisees taking up stones to kill him.

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Mindful Moment: Meditation with Rev. Jim Burklo

A mindfulness meditation on “seeing that you are seen” – for students and staff in this time of “physical distancing”.

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Communicable Compassion

Faith communities in the coronavirus era

Just when we need church community the most, we’re being advised by public health experts to maintain “social distance” to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

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Meditations for Lent 2020

According to the Torah, on the Sabbath you can pick up an apple that naturally falls from a tree onto the ground, but you can’t pick it from the tree.  Mindful Christian meditative prayer practice is very similar.  In it, we take time to see things as they are, without interfering with them or trying to fix or change them.

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VIDEO: Shall the People Rule? Jim Burklo as Wm Jennings Bryan

In worship at Mt Hollywood Church in LA, Sunday, Feb 16, I “channeled” William Jennings Bryan, best known as the fundamentalist Christian lawyer who defended six-day creationism in the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925.

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The Gift of Uselessness

Students – and everyone else – are thirsty for non-transactional connections.  They crave real friendships that are grounded in unconditional agape love. 

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SNAP into Action

It will be a much sadder day for food-insecure people in America when and if the Trumpublicans succeed in decimating the SNAP (food stamp) and school lunch programs with a $4.2 billion annual cut. 

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Christmas: Birth of a New Narrative

The sacred myth of Christmas enchants us into life, birthing us as children of God.  The gospel story of the conception and birth of Jesus comes alive for us again, in our own transformation from the mundane to the divine.  The story is about us. 

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First, Save Democracy

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  (Paul, Ephesians 6:12, NRSV)

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Prince of Peace, Cross of Gold

Imagine Bernie Sanders’ public policy prescriptions woven into a fundamentalist Christian religious tract.

Does that idea hurt your head?

Well, it’s not a new one.

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The Way of Emptying

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 

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The Sacred Myth of the Gospel

I’ve been introducing scripture passages this way from the pulpit for decades.  At first I was a bit nervous about speaking my mind in such an unambiguous fashion.  But when I discovered that hardly any parishioners blinked, I lost my trepidation. 

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What Makes This Progressive Church Thrive

There’s no cookie-cutter answer to that question. There’s no one “secret sauce” to sprinkle on a church to bring it alive. But from each other, churches can discover ingredients for the recipes for vitality that will work for them. 

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Followership

I’ve mused to myself that my daily hikes are “God-walks”.  God holds an invisible leash attached to me, and I follow where God leads.   Understanding that I’m on a God-walk snaps me out of the small-“s” selfishness of thinking that my life is my own, that I make all my own decisions consciously, that I’m the master of my own fate and the captain of my own ship. 

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Holding the Line

We must have the freedom to seek the truth and follow where it leads us, or we will lose our democracy and lose our faith.  Good religion is a foundation for democracy, and democracy is a foundation for the flourishing of good religion.

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The Beauty Trap

Beauty is a trap. A trap set all around me, as I walk to and from the Metro Red Line Subway station at Hollywood and Vine on my daily commute. Huge electronic billboards depicting idealized, unrealistically beautiful people demand the attention of the little, actual humans scurrying around on the sidewalks below.

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Softly and Tenderly

New words to an old tent-meeting revival hymn

Softly and tenderly Jesus is callingCalling for you and for meWalking his pathway toward joy and compassionCalling for you and for me

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Behold the Beloved..

The Song of Solomon is a steamy romance between a man and a woman.  For thousands of years, Jewish and Christian theologians attempted to define the Song of Solomon as a long allegory about God’s love for humanity.  God was the lover and human beings were the beloved.  This was a creative interpretation of the text, but certainly not the first meaning that leaps off the pages.

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Reproductive Choice: The Mother of All Rights

If a woman is denied the right to choose for herself whether or not to complete a pregnancy, in what sense can she, or any of us, claim rights of any kind? 

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Oil Patch Elegy

As we grapple with the existential crisis of human-caused climate change, we will have a hard time making the transition away from fossil fuels if we show disrespect to the people in this industry.  We must carefully craft our language to attract rather than insult the people who labor still to this day, extracting the fuels that power our vehicles and warm our houses. 

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