Tuesday, October 12, 2010

According to their understanding

"And now they keep on sinning
and make a cast image for themselves,
idols of silver made according to their own understanding" Hosea 13:2

God cannot be portrayed from our understanding. Our understanding must be molded by the encounter with God. Jesus says to follow him. When we rest in our understanding of God we cease to be open to God's shaping us.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Need not Want

My will is not going to become a Christian because it wants to be. My will only turns to the God shown us in Jesus because it NEEDS to. It will not choose voluntary death for a life promised in the resurrection. Who will find oneself not choosing to have the bird in the hand...? It is only when I realize that the life I have now is not truly life that I will be motivated to surrender. I thought for a while that because I was MEANT to have a different life that I would be able to surrender to the better life. But that is not true. My persistence in this direction is only because I NEED a different life. I had hoped that the beauty of God's love for me declared in the Scripture and above all in Jesus would draw me out of willfulness. But the reality is my willfulness is not plied by attraction. It appears that only suffering will force me out of the false life I now lead to the life shown me in Jesus.

Is this true for evangelism? If my mission is to promote faith can I do it on the basis of the beauty of this religion; can I really do it before I have tasted its transformation for myself? It would be disingenuous to promote a path to transformation when I felt that transformation was only in germ in myself? Actually, having studied it a great deal, having tried the path, I have encountered the testimony of those who say it is true. To them I must point as I say to others this is the path I am pursuing. That is honest. Perhaps not compelling, but then again, can faith ever be compelling?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Meaning Means More than Money

So I asked the congregation, "What do we know about the people of North Korea?" We came to a consensus. They are poor, unhappy, oppressed. That was what I thought too until an interesting NPR program raised serious doubts. Bradley Martin is a journalist covering North Korea for over 25 years and he asserts that the people are indoctrinated so that even though they undergo great hardship and oppression many accept the message of the regime, whilst others are too afraid to show dissent. Many believe that the North Korean project as expounded by the regime is meaningful, and so they remain loyal. This contradicts our assumptions because we cannot understand people being content unless they profess our "indoctrination", namely that material good, comfort, and the freedom to pursue them will bring contentment.

Three thoughts suggest themselves to me. First, I tend to underestimate the power of an ideology to harness the human spirit. Secondly, I should not assume that people are not content to hold the ideology which holds them, whether it be some form of totalitarianism or consumerism. Thirdly, I wonder whether there is any way to judge between ideologies which so claim the allegiance of human beings?

I hold the belief that the human heart truly knows no peace until the human being desires to live into the image of God, the image of love, planted within us, and empowered by the passion, resurrection and Spirit of Jesus Christ. How do I test this assertion? How do I encourage others to explore it? What is the difference between what I hold and what the totalitarian or the consumerist hold?

One thing is clear. The assumed priority of consumerism is debunked if those living in an oppressive society can draw inspiration from an oppressive regime in the midst of abject poverty. The consumer model is at best on option among many, and given the environmental disaster impending upon us, we should abandon that idea as soon as possible for the love of humanity, if not for the love of God.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Death and Taxes

I did my taxes and I have GREAT news! After all is said and done I will have money in my pocket. $0.05. Yipee! The Feds owed me! I owed the State of NY. And once I paid TurboTax for helping me prepare the whole thing...I came out ahead by a nickle. It came just in time as I am going on vacation this week. I'll put that toward my gas and I figure it will take me just about 1/2 a mile.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Can't be founded in 1693

Setting up for a PayPal account for the church I had to enter the date of our founding, September 1693. I hit submit and ... ta-dah ... error message! "Please enter a valid date." But September 21, 1693 is a valid date, and what is more it is the date our parish was founded, by the Ministries Act of the Colony of New York. Not according to PayPal it isn't. And that from a company that has a capital letter in the middle of their name. So I call the company. After an extended period on hold they tell me just to put any date in that field.

There is a deeper problem here I think. We as a culture have distorted our identities. We have pushed individuality to the extreme and one of the consequences is that we are alienated from our roots. I suspect that this deracination has spiritual consequences: we lose depth and awareness of who we are. Another problem with this is that we have become unjustifiably arrogant about what the past has to offer us. Yes, they did not have cars, cellphones or twitter accounts. But, the deep problems of belonging, love, meaning, purpose, powerlessness and possibility were all subjects of their reflection. The past has much to teach us about our origins, but also much to convey to us in the way of life's struggles.

I put 1940 in the blank, the decade we received tax free status. But in my heart I am connected to 1693 AD, 33 AD and even way into the time before the Common Era.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pope John XXIII by Thomas Cahill

I was surprised by how clearly Cahill makes his thesis that the papacy as it has developed is contrary to the will of Christ for his church. He makes a compelling contrast between John XXIII himself who trusted the Holy Spirit to work in the church through the work of councils and fearful nay-saying popes who grasp at power and see the truth as something weak and in need of defense. As I witness the voice of the modern Roman Catholic Church I have lost any illusions I may have had that the Roman pontiff provides unity to the church. Monarchy by one bishop over the church only stiffles the people of God as they try to discern what the Holy Spirit who blows where she wills is saying.

I was struck with love for John as presented in this book. Warm, human, kind, fun, sincere, wise, discrete, willing to take risks for what is right, open to humanity, willing to find the good in all. Would that we could have hundreds of him today to help us in the church navigate the challenges presented to us today.

Does the Church have a lot of Crap that must go?

I suspect it does, but I somehow think we can also over-react to its perceived demise. The church only has a huge problem if we think the church must always be large, influential in our society, and representative of central currents of thought in our culture. But that is not necessarily so. True the Church is in a stage of change, however, with God's grace it all could be a blessing. The article linked below offers some reasons why the church is diminishing and offers some responses the community could make. I resonate with much here, however, think it exaggerates because much that it criticizes are characteristics that each society will develop in time, and the reasonable response is to manage them, not do away with them only to make room for new rank growth. But the main weakness in the article is that nothing excites us like a crisis. I suspect the change will be great, but I also suspect there will be developments which will give strength to the church of the future. I also think there is a current of anti-intellectualism which is misguided. We have to encourage much study and personal pursuit of holiness for the church to be the church. Education is critical and we need more, not less of it. Here is the article.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Why We Hate Us

On the Leonard Lopate Radio program August 5, 2008, Dick Meyer discussed his book, "Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millenium". The link is below.

Several of his observations merit reflection. He suggests that manners are diminishing in our society because we no longer recognize the value of conformity in the creation of community. He suggests the geographic mobility of our society undermines lifetime relationships which are an important force in personal happiness.

I was intrigued by his discussion because he admits he feels like a kermudgeon which is a feeling I have had more often in the last couple of years. The source of my feeling is also a noticed lack of manners. It strikes me that we often conform our behaviour to expectations, not because there is anything inherently right in the expectation, nor because our freedom is being unreasonlably restricted by convention, but rather as an opportunity to relate to and participate in the community.

I have had a similar thought in my study of biblical tests and observance of Christian tradition. In prescribed religious behavior I have detected at least two categories of prescribed behaviour. One category is those things one must do for the sake of justice and love. These are unnegotiable behaviours such as "Thou shalt do no murder." The other category however does not contain in itself any rightness or wrongness. These are obligatory only by a convention of a group and observation of them is only compulsary in as much as one wants to be part of that group. These are behaviours such as, "The Nicene Creed is recited on Sundays and major feast days," or "Fridays outside Easter and Christmastide are days of special observance."
It is this second kind of behaviour that people do not seem to understand is also important for the creation of a thriving community. Listen to the webcast and see what you think.