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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

God Passes

The year’s at the spring, 
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven; 
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His [sic] heaven-
All’s right with the world!

I know it's Autumn, but the clear cool mornings of late have reminded me of these classic lines from Robert Browning's dramatic poem "Pippa Passes".  The poem is about a peasant girl, Pippa, who during the course of a day passes through the lives of several people who are in places of conflict and tension, reminding them of the good and virtue in the world. 

I first heard and learned these words as lyrics of a musical arrangement sung by a children's church choir I was in.  I remember walking along by myself to school on a cool, crisp, sunny, blue skied morning.  Wearing a new pair of Keds, my lunch sack in one hand, books in the other, and a ball glove hanging from my belt, I passed through a meadow still damp with morning dew and filled with wild flowers.  I sang those words at the top of my voice, and I wonder to this day if anyone but God and me heard them.

One of our old church hymns says, "There's a wideness in God's mercy..."  It's true - regardless of what is going on in the world or our particular lives, the sunrise, the hillside, the dew, the lark, the snail the thorn, and even stormy skies are always witness to and reminder of God's Eternal Presence.

"...And God said, 'It is good.  It is very good!'...The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God's handiwork... do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear... Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet God feeds them... neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus..."      Genesis, Psalms, Matthew, Romans

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"The Things That Are God's"

The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere
and the circumference is nowhere.  (Empedocles)

Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away (Matthew 22:19-22).

This little story about a coin and taxes is not really about taxes.  As the Pharisees try to trap Jesus into saying something either treasonous or blasphemous, Jesus takes the opportunity to turn the tables and remind them of some things they already know.   Any good Jew of Jesus' day, not to mention a Pharisee, would know the multitude of teaching in scripture that makes it pretty clear who owns what between the emperor (whether Pharaoh or Ceaasar) and God.   For starters how about the primal creed of Israel, the Shema:  "Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." (Deuteronomy 6:4).   When God is One, how can there be anything else?  Remembering this, all they can do walk away in silence.

We too are reminded that everything is God (or better in God), even, and especially, those things claimed in the illusion of ownership by nations or individuals.  We can divide creation and it's resources all we want, but regardless of how we do it, the truth remains: "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it;"   (Psalm 24:1)

What would our life look like if we started treating everything as if it were in God?    Would we think differently about our natural resources and use them more wisely, seeing them as a gift rather than a right or entitlement?   How would our relationships change if we began to recognize the presence of God in every other human?  Could we even begin to let go of the concept of ownership through generous sharing of all things including our own lives?  

Let's go into the world today and look for God, or better yet, prepare ourselves to be surprised at where God finds us and we discover ourselves in God.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


"A new type of thinking is essential if mankind [sic] is to survive and move to higher levels."  Albert Einstein

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  Romans 12:2

The basis of all human activity is thought.  Communication, interaction, imagination, creativity, joy, sorrow, pleasure, pain, and even basic bodily functions - all begin in the brain.  The world we live in is the result of how we has individuals and as humanity have been thinking.  If we look around and see scarcity, fear and violence then guess where it's coming from?  And knowing where negativity and pessimism come from is the first step toward doing something about them.  If Albert Einstein and the Apostle Paul are right, what the world needs today is a shift in the way we think.

Last week I ran across "The Optimist Creed" in a publication.  It was written in the early 20th century by Christian Larson and eventually adopted by the organization "Optimist International" as its creed.  It goes like this:

Promise Yourself...
  • To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
  • To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
  • To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
  • To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
  • To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
  • To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
  • To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
  • To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
  • To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
  • To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.  

The Apostle Paul again put it this way:  
"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things you have learned, received, heard and seen... and the God of peace will be with us."  Philippians 4:8-9

Want to change the world, or even your little corner of it?  Maybe this wisdom from Einstein, Christian Larson and Paul is a good place to start.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


What better time, I ask, could there be to begin a weekly meditation called "One Eternal Presence" than the week of World Communion Sunday.  Last Sunday the Spirit of World Communion was moving at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church.   Church School was teaming with activity: the adult class wrestled with Middle East peace, the toddlers in the Wee Believe class were up and down the stairs (and later literally all over the chancel platform during their time in worship), Godly Play was happening with older children, and rice and eggs were being cooked in the Washington Seminar Center kitchen (more coming on that).