In This Life

While hiding in the failed hope of evading murder at the hands of the Nazis, Ann Frank was able to write in her diary that she believed that people were basically good and that peace would return to the world. This is a helpful statement of faith now that we are living through a dangerously turbulent time that threatens to see a return to fascism in countries that have formerly loved democracy. This season of history will pass and perhaps, if we are patient and compassionate, we can help it to pass a bit more quickly.

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BRUNCHtalks2 – Progressive in Approach

Whenever we try to articulate what God IS, language fails us. For the most part, the institutional church has defined God with words and expected that members of the institution will confess loyalty to those words. Many of the words, with which the institution has traditionally described God, craft an image of God as a supernatural being up there or out there who is responsible for creation and from time to time interferes in the workings of creation. As we continue to learn more and more about the magnitude of creation, both in time and space, our traditional words about God seem even more puny. While some respond to our ever-expanding knowledge about creation by attempting to make our notions of God fit into the tight little containers that were crafted by our ancestors, some are seeking new ways to speak of the CREATOR OF ALL THAT IS, WAS OR EVER SHALL BE. How might a progressive approach to religion enable us to expand our images of the Divine MYSTERY?

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FAQ’s for Churches

http://tcpc.blogs.com/musings/2017/09/resistance-bible-study.html

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Escape from Suffering

The 4 noble truths of Buddhism provide an path out of the suffering that defines human existence. Seeking the middle way is a spiritual goal that should be familiar to persons of all faith backgrounds, helping us to find a healthy way through a culture that is always pushed towards the extremes of consumerism, hoarding, addiction, pornography, and partisan bickering.

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Building community around humanistic values.

Would it be fair for me to promote the notion that you – a self-declared atheist leading a United Church of Canada congregation – and your church are generally promoting humanist values as well as providing the community benefits that churches normally provide?

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Video with Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastor

Nadia Bolz-Weber saw a spiritual longing in friends who didn’t fit into the typical church. So the Evangelical Lutheran pastor created a new one, The House for All SInners and Saints, which allows parishioners from all walks of life to embrace failures and surround themselves with acceptance, love, and grace.

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Imagining a World Where Love is the Way (HT Bishop Curry)

By Morgan Guyton

n his sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry invites all of us to “imagine a world where love is the way.” So I thought I would take a minute to do that. I will say that my first instinct sadly is to dismiss it as an overly flimsy concept reserved for a shallow Beatles song, a fake, feel-good, liberal “revolution.”

But a world where love is the way is actually a lot harder and more complex than a world where my team wins everything since we claim to be the team on love’s side. A world where love is the way is a world where empathy is not a zero sum game. It’s a world in which disagreements are not resolved through the categorically invalidating ad hominem attacks of postmodernity. It’s a world where nobody gets shot because somebody else was feeling afraid, where nobody gets mocked for crying, and where nobody’s feelings are more or less important than anyone else’s. It’s a world where the goal is not to make our enemies shut up and disappear but to sit at a table together and see each other fully.

A world where love is the way doesn’t dismiss nuance, nor does it use “nuance” to wave away uncomfortable truths. It doesn’t oversimplify the parties in one historical conflict as being identical to the parties in any other historical conflict. It doesn’t tell people that their humanity can be explained away by academic theories or sacred texts. It doesn’t apply labels to entire populations universally like terrorist or imperialist though it does recognize the existence of systemic realities like white supremacy, patriarchy, and colonialism that cannot be adjudicated individualistically. It doesn’t see suicide bombs as any more or less tragic than missiles from F-15’s, though it does recognize the reality of power differentials. In a world where love is the way, nobody is dehumanized and nobody is shielded from facing the truth.

A world where love is the way does not have gated communities or walls to shut one group of people out so that another group of people can deny them as neighbors. It doesn’t marginalize suffering but allows the widest possible community to absorb and shoulder it together. In this kind of world, no one ever says, “I am not my brother’s keeper.” No one tries to write anyone else out of the story. In a world where love is the way, every story matters and stories that haven’t mattered are prioritized as a result.
There are plenty of ways that I fall short of that kind of world. Creating it would not be nearly as glamorous or emotionally satisfying as getting off on the outrage porn that has saturated everything today. But it’s never too late to engage in the tiny, banal acts of love that are infinitely powerful when they’re all gathered together by the God who is love. In every given moment, we are invited to resist the enemy who makes us all enemies and follow the lead of the savior who is our perfect model of the love that always takes sides and always works to create the best possible world for everyone.

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The Changing Face of Death

The other day, I officiated at a funeral, though we don’t use that word much anymore. Calling such events celebrations of a life is much more popular. The word funeral reeks of morbidity.

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An American Creed

There have been visionary voices in America throughout our history (Jefferson, Paine, Whitman, Emerson, Sojourner Truth, Douglas, Thoreau) who described America in terms of equality, freedom, justice, and civil rights, and even though the vision has never been entirely realized we have made a lot of progress on many fronts, progress that is, very regrettably, presently at grave risk of being lost. Now is no time for progressive thinkers to consider international escape or domestic surrender. Now is a time when people who are spiritually awake must stand and fight (through voting, demonstrations, protests, and possibly . . . revolution) to defend a vision of America about which we can be honestly patriotic.

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Secure Borders in a Christian Contest

Jesus commanded us to “love one another.” A lot of Christians today talk about having “secure borders” in response to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Loving one another and having secure borders are not necessarily opposites—but they can be.

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Presbyterian Church Makes History, Adopts Official Pro-LGBTQ Stances at Biennial Conference

By Shane Stahl for Freedom For All Americans

On Wednesday, June 20, the Presbyterian Church took a historic step by voting unanimously to accept three Overtures submitted at their biennial conference in Missouri. The Overtures both celebrate LGBTQ people of faith and speak out against religious freedom being used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

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Wake Up Jeezus! Wake Up!

Mark 4:35-41

The raging storms are all around us. Racism, poverty, disease, and violence; four winds that howl so ferociously that all we can hear is the sound of people’s fears as we see the very real possibility that the bottom might just fall out of the small craft we have fashioned to navigate the troubled waters that lie ahead.

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Help Me Understand

I’ve written several posts about a book on Zen Buddhism I’ve just completed reading. I found myself becoming quieter and quieter as I read a brief section each day during morning prayer. Part of it was that Zen was telling me to shut up, just be. And part of it was that the whole enterprise had the effect of a Zen koan like “the sound of one hand clapping” to still the mind.

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Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality Announces “A Call to Transform” $1 Million Fundraising Campaign

Boulder, Colorado, June 25, 2018—The Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality has launched its $1 million fundraising campaign “A Call to Transform” designed to support the Institute’s future with investments in student access and scholarships, faculty, enhanced public awareness, …

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Because We Are All Connected

3 things: 1) We are all connected. 2) All partisan, racial, gender, religious, and national divisions are forms of deception and manipulation. 3) Spiritual people want to remain meaningfully engaged in changing the world without becoming a part of the problem. We may rise above the fray and maintain our centered and sane peace.

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Being Christian in the Twenty-First Century

Being Christian in the Twenty-First Century was written out of a concern for the graying of the church and decline in church affiliation especially among younger generations. It promotes an understanding of Christianity that avoids literalism, dogma, and doctrines—all factors which many believe is driving people away from the church.

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Dismayed on the Fourth of July: A Ministerial Journey with Donald Trump

Dismayed on the Fourth of July: A Ministerial Journey with Donald Trump
Growing up in a small town in southern Indiana, the Fourth of July meant friends coming to the house for a cookout, sitting on the front porch, devouring large chunks of sweet and juicy watermelon, and watching an Independence Day parade moving slowly down North Main Street. An American flag gently swayed in the afternoon breeze. The Fourth of July was about celebrating our country. It wasn’t about nationalism. It wasn’t about proclaiming that the United States was better than the rest of the world. Perhaps most notably, it was not a politicized holiday. It was a simple day, naïve to be sure, but a simple day of enjoying one another and remembering the founding of our nation.
I share these memories because I’m painfully aware of how differently the Fourth of July feels to me this year under the presidency of Donald J. Trump. I’m guessing it feels differently for many Americans this year. I’m also thinking about it because a few weeks ago I received an email criticizing me over how I have been mixing religion and politics in my sermons, Facebook posts, and in a few of my Take a Breath blogs. But the one word that caught my attention in his long vituperative email was dismayed. He stated that he was “dismayed” that I would make a negative comment about “our” president, President Trump.
No minister likes to receive this kind of email on a Monday morning, especially after preaching a sermon the day before, followed by the Coffee Fellowship hour (and fielding a variety of complaints about the anthem and altar flowers), and then a few committee meetings held later in the afternoon. Like most clergy, I prefer everyone to think that my sermons are brilliantly written and eloquently delivered. While I know a few clergy who thrive on stirring the pot week after week, I’m not one of them. I love the people in my congregation, and I also like it when they love me in return. (There. I said it.)
Yet my skin has been crawling the past few weeks because of that word “dismayed” and the upcoming holiday of the Fourth of July. The word dismayed literally means the negation of something that is true. Or at least potentially true. Yet it’s more than that. It suggests that I had crossed a social, ecclesiastical or theological line. It’s a word that carries with it overtones of disappointment and shame. He wasn’t merely saying that he disagreed with me; he was saying I should be ashamed of what I was saying regarding faith and the political realities of our world. To be dismayed doesn’t mean a difference of opinion; it suggests anguish, hurt and pain.
I’m too much of a curmudgeon these days for a scathing email to derail me. But it did throw me into a state of self-reflection over what it means to be a minister of the Christian faith during the Trump presidency. It has been a cloud, to be sure, or more like a fog, that touches everything about how I approach my work as a clergyperson.
I don’t want a church where everyone agrees with me. I have repeatedly urged my congregation, First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, to be a “journey” church and not an “answer” church. I love the diversity of thought and feeling in our congregation. As for myself, all I can do on a Sunday morning is preach the best message I know how to preach at any given moment of my life. I’ve changed my mind through the years. I’ve made mistakes through the years. But in the end, when the bells chime at 11:00 AM, it’s my job to say something about God and what is happening in the world. Or as Paul Tillich used to remind his students, my job is to help the gospel make contact with the world.
Knowing he was dismayed caused me to re-check my capacity for empathy. I don’t mean to suggest that I’m right and he’s wrong, or that I feel sorry for him because he hasn’t evolved to my point of view. I honestly want to understand what he thinks and believes. When people say they don’t want “politics in the church,” they may be acknowledging how stressful political discourse has become in our society, and that when they come to a worship service, they want to find something inspiring to help them make it through another week. I understand that. My view of faith is a little broader, because I happen to think Jesus was political. Faith should always be about interacting with our real world. I also think there’s a way to find refreshing spiritual renewal, while at the same time caring passionately about what is happening in our nation.
That said, after receiving his email, a new sense of clarity began taking shape inside my consciousness. I realized that I, too, am “dismayed.” Deeply, passionately, and theologically dismayed. I’m dismayed because of the presidency of Donald J. Trump. I’m anguished over what I see happening to our nation. In fact, I’m dismayed that more church members aren’t dismayed along with me, feeling a sense of outrage over issues of injustice and indignity that happen regularly in the political circus that is the Trump presidency.
I’m only now realizing that my feeling of being dismayed has shaped everything about who I am as a clergyperson for the past two years, including my sermons, posts and blogs. I’ve tried to restrain my feelings. I have had to talk myself off the ledge numerous times after writing vitriolic posts or deleting whole paragraphs, and in some cases, entire sermons on a Saturday night. But at a certain point, even a minister has to be honest about his or her real experience. I believe churches deserve our honesty.
My real experience is that I am dismayed . . .
I am dismayed because, at least according to the Washington Post, this president has lied to the American people over 3000 times, and that it is now to the point that no one knows what is true and what is false, what is spin and what is fact. The White House cannot be trusted. This is a fundamental loss in our country. The idea of not bearing “false witness” is essential to the Jewish and Christian faiths, and in fact, it is an essential dimension of morality found in all the great religions of the world.
I am dismayed that this president has created foreign policy chaos, including breaking alliances with longtime allies and friends and making our world a more dangerous and unpredictable place. As a clergyperson, I believe we live in a global village, and now more than ever the complexity of the world must be approached with wisdom, insight and intellectual rigor. The survival of the planet now depends upon the moral reasoning of our global leaders, and this is a special burden of responsibility that the President of the United States of America must carry. Even his handshake diplomacy with North Korea feels nervously shaky and unclear.
I am dismayed that this president, during a real-time climate disaster, has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, not to mention leading an administration that continues to roll back important regulations and environmental protections. My faith moves me to understand the earth as the body of God, and how we treat the earth is how we are treating the great Spirit of love that is in all things, through all things, and above all things. Furthermore, it has been proven again and again that those who suffer most from a collapsing environment are the poorest of the world’s poor. This is not a political issue; climate change is a moral issue.
I am dismayed that this president regularly diminishes the American justice system, including the work of men and women in the Department of Justice, CIA and FBI, and that he has continued to use the Attorney General as his personal piñata. Many of these people kept our nation safe after 9/11. We are a nation of laws, and these laws have their roots in a democratic vision established in the original founding of our nation. While I believe in the separation of church and state, and I have never publicly endorsed a political candidate, I know enough about American history to note that religious faith fundamentally shaped our democracy that is based upon law and not personality.
I am dismayed that this president continues to undercut the work of the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, and is now arguing that, as president, he is above the law, immune to indictment and empowered with the authority, not only to pardon his friends, such as Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, but is able to pardon himself. I am old enough to remember the crisis of Richard Nixon and Watergate. I had come to believe that our nation understood that no one is above the law, including the president. As a clergyperson, I understand that the misuse of power is one of the great moral issues of our time, and that all power, whether political, ecclesiastical or corporate, must be used judiciously and with unblinking self-honesty.
I am dismayed that this president regularly diminishes women, and for that matter, almost anyone different from himself. Evidently he as bought the silence of many women in order to protect his reputation. My faith embraces an egalitarian view of women, believing that they have every right to make contributions to the church and world, and when this president diminishes one woman, he is diminishing all women. Moreover, his vulgarization of women provides a cultural permission slip for other men to do the same, something that is regressive and reprehensible, especially given the realities of the “Me-Too Movement” at the beginning of the 21st century.
I am dismayed that this president has offered no humane, compassionate, constructive solution to the challenge of immigration in our country. Building a wall is not a solution; it is only a clichéd campaign slogan. Again, my faith encourages me to love my neighbor as myself, especially caring for the stranger and those who are most vulnerable in life. Even as I write, parents and children are being separated at the southern border of America, all in the name of American justice. If this is American justice, then it is an America I clearly do not recognize. This strategy betrays everything good and true thing about Jesus, who said centuries ago, “Let the little children come unto me.”
I am dismayed that this president has not exhibited the moral capacity to understand the anguish of African Americans in our country, especially when he argues that there are “good” neo-Nazis and white supremacists, not to mention publicly shaming black athletes protesting police violence by peacefully kneeling during the national anthem. Of course, his personal endorsement of disgraced actress Roseanne Barr, who was recently fired because of abhorrent racist tweets, is deplorable enough. But when given an opportunity to respond to her incendiary remarks, the president turned it into a narcissistic complaint about his own sense of injustice. My faith teaches me that all people are children of God and that every human being deserves respect and dignity.
A few months ago I was watching the television show “Morning Joe,” and they were lamenting the troubles of the day as they do most mornings, but that day the conversation turned to religion. The panel went back and forth until someone asked: “Where are the ministers now? Are any of them speaking up?” These are important questions. Jim Wallis? Of course he’s speaking up. Al Sharpton? Yes, he always speaks up. William Barber? Yes, he’s leading the Poor People’s Campaign. But when you’re in a parish, seeing the same people week after week, it’s not easy to speak up. We love our people and our people love us. People want all kinds of things from their church, including spiritual renewal for their challenging lives. And yes, I’m guessing that a few people in my church voted for Donald Trump.
Yet people also want some truth. From time to time I think people need (and deserve) to know what their minister really thinks and feels. It’s risky, to be sure. And it’s challenging. Maybe it can’t be done every Sunday. I don’t know. The full spectrum of life has to be honored in a parish context. But every now and then I’m convinced it’s good for the church and good for the minister to just say it, to stand up and say what he or she is really thinking and feeling and believing. As for me, on the birthday of our nation, July 4th, 2018, it seems like a good day for me to say what I am feeling – I am dismayed. I am dismayed on the Fourth of July.

R. Scott Colglazier is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles and the author of the popular online blog – “Take a Breath” (www.rscolglazier.com). His work as a religious leader has been featured in The New York Times, the CBS Morning Show and CNN.
I’m painfully aware of how differently the Fourth of July feels to me this year under the presidency of Donald J. Trump. I’m guessing it feels differently for many Americans this year. I’m also thinking about it because a few weeks ago I received an email criticizing me over how I have been mixing religion and politics in my sermons, Facebook posts, and in a few of my Take a Breath blogs. But the one word that caught my attention in his long vituperative email was dismayed. He stated that he was “dismayed” that I would make a negative comment about “our” president, President Trump.

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Moon-Walking Bears, Jesus and Nicodemus: a sermon on John 3:1-17

I am indebted to Jim Kast-Keat, a pioneering preacher who inspired me to open this sermon with the video below. I am also indebted to Bishop John Shelby Spong for teaching me more that I can articulate with words. His excellent book The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic opened the Gospel According to John in ways that have helped me to see aspects of the Divine to which I was once blind. Much of the sermon consists of extensive quotes from chapter 9 of Jack’s book.

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