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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Post Parkland

One week ago today seventeen people, most of them teenagers, opened their eyes upon their final day. They went about their morning routines that led them into what promised to be a normal day of learning and teaching. Little did they know the premeditated violence and carnage awaiting them in the form of an assault weapon in the hands of a disturbed, angry white man.

Last night, with some of the students and teachers who lived through the horror in the gallery and others in route, their state legislature refused to even discuss a law to place restrictions on assault weapons, claiming procedural reasons. According to news sources they went on to approve a resolution declaring pornography a public health risk.

This tragic scenario of carnage-rage-inaction bathed in "thoughts and prayers"  has become a mantra, a script of fear, anger, violence, and delusion which we all chant and play our parts.

Last Sunday in my sermon I addressed this bloody quagmire in which we live from a biblical perspective. I invite you to listen.

If you don't take time to hear the sermon, the final charge to the congregation included the following quote from Walter Brueggemann.

The crisis in the U.S. Church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence. ~ Walter Brueggemann

However, this is not only true for Christians but for all people of faith from all religions, or no religion, to reclaim our true identities and human dignity.

We are not here to kill each other!
     




Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wonder-Filled Wednesday

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  ~ Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, Genesis 3:19

"We are stardust, we are golden. We are billion year old carbon. And we got to get ourselves back to the garden."  ~ Joni Mitchell

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Christian season of Lent. Traditionally it is a day of penitence, prayer, fasting, and reflection on human sinfulness and mortality. Countless people will attend liturgies that express these things and then end by having ashes in the shape of a cross smudged on their foreheads.

Several years ago I began observing Ash Wednesday in a different way that has subsequently changed my experience of it's meaning. In short I have moved from Ash Wednesday to what I might call Wonderful Wednesday. The basic, yet dramatic, shift is from a focus on sin and mortality to an appreciation of goodness and immortality. The experience, called Stardust to Dust, is a self-paced pilgrimage of stations that tell the deep time story of creation in readings, photographs, and music in a darkened candlelit room.



Tonight at Trinity Clearwater Presbyterian church, the Stardust to Dust experience is again available for those in our area from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. I invite you to come experience what is a   truly unique, non-traditional way to observe Ash (Wonder-filled) Wednesday.

For those who can't attend I'm providing a couple of links below that include the program and readings at each station.

Have a Wonder-filled (Ash) Wednesday! 


Stardust to Dust Program

Stardust to Dust Stations

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Purpose

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. God has made everything suitable for its time... I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live...  ~ Ecclesiastes 3

What is the purpose of humanity? Humanity's purpose is to love [Life] and enjoy [Life] forever. 
~ Westminster Catechism, paraphrased

There is a young woman I can't seem to get out of my thoughts from a couple of days ago as I checked out at a local grocery store. The two young women at the counter, one checking and one bagging, were in conversation and hardly noticed that I was there. Normally, as a customer this would irritate me. Instead I was drawn into their conversation which continued as they both did their jobs rather mindlessly, and still seemingly unaware of my presence.

"What are you going to do?" The one bagging asked the other.

"I don't know what to do. I just don't have a purpose in life," came the reply in a hopeless tone.

By then I was checked out and could have easily picked up my bag and walked away.  I probably should have resisted what some would call, and they may have perceived as "mansplaining," but I didn't.

"Excuse me for interrupting. I couldn't help hearing." I said.  "Perhaps your purpose is to enjoy life."

"But how can I enjoy my life if it is the same thing over and over. I feel like I'm living in a rerun, the same thing every day, with no way to change it."  She shared with a complete stranger.

"The only thing I really know is you are the only one who can change."

She looked at me as if I were from Mars yet with longing, as another customer came up behind me.

"Things will be better," was all I could manage.

There is a lot I wanted to say, but then I really would have been inappropriate, because I don't know that young woman's experience of life at all.

What I do know is that each and every one of us has purpose. Unfortunately most of us think of purpose as "things" we do when our real purpose is perhaps the manner in which we do the things of our lives. In this sense, purpose is not a job, a profession, or a duty that we have, but rather a deep sense of belonging to and participating in the whole of creation, even when our participation (or as The Preacher of Ecclesiastes calls it our "toil") seems small and trivial.

We also stumble on the word "enjoy." How do we enjoy the mundane and harsh in our lives? The Hebrew word used in Ecclesiastes is "ra'ah" which means: to see, to perceive, to have vision, to give attention to.  "Enjoying" life means paying attention to Life each and every moment and engaging the wonder of it all, even and perhaps especially, in the most simple things.

What grander purpose could there be?





Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Practice

Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. ~ Vince Lombardi

Everything is practice. ~ unknown


I got a guitar for Christmas. Yes, these aging, sometimes arthritic hands are learning to play a guitar. This means taking a few minutes most days to train my hands and fingers into contortions which are heretofore foreign to them. It means sore fingers as callouses develop. And it means going over and over these things with hopes my awkward efforts will one day be music. It means practice, practice, practice. The wisdom of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi quoted above has new meaning to me as I struggle for good fingering that produces clear chords. Practice is integral to learning something new.

Another understanding of practice is that which describes a person's work, as in a professional and vocational practice. In this sense practice is what one does, like a doctor, lawyer, teacher, mechanic, etc. 

There is still another sense of practice that somehow combines the two previous ones. It is true that what we practice, or do over and over, becomes engrained in mind and body as "body memory" or habit. What we think and what we do is who we are. In this sense, everything is practice. This can be a sobering prospect if our "practices" are not necessarily leading toward the overall good of our lives and the world around us.

Remember the old joke about the visitor to New York City who asked a fellow pedestrian, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" And the reply was, "Practice, practice, practice!"

How do we get to a more loving, peaceful, caring, compassionate, perfect life and world? You got it - by living this way.