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Wednesday, February 24, 2016


...our Lenten Pilgrimage of Prepositions continues .

"To" and "from" are both prepositions often used to express directional action, indicating destination or origin.  Both also invite the question "where?"  which in turn leads us to prepositions of place like - in, on, at, by, over, under, etc.  The most common of these is probably "in."

When asked where are you?  Our response will often be something like, "I'm in (name your city, state, or country),"  or "I'm in town," or "in my car."  We describe emotional and relational states as "in love," "in a relationship," "in touch," etc.  Descriptions of life circumstances include, "in trouble," "in the soup," "in a dark place," "in a good place," "in control," etc.  We always seem to be "in" something.

Let me suggest that perhaps the ultimate "in" is what we call time and space.  Our lives take place in a continuum of thoughts and events that succeed from one to another through past, present, and future.  The continuum we call "time."  The dimension in which thoughts and events occur we call "space."  We are ultimately and always in time and space, both of which are considered boundless or infinite or eternal. Eternity is therefore not a time or place in the future but rather the time and place where we always are.  We live in eternity.

The names we give this eternal existence are most often the Divine Names of our religious and spiritual traditions.  Even scientific language becomes ethereal when speaking of ultimate reality, using words like "mystery" and even "faith" or "trust" when speaking of ultimate matters.

Regardless of the language we use to speak of the infinite and eternal the fact is we are "in" it!

The Apostle Paul when speaking to a group of people in ancient Athens quotes one of their own poets and says: "In God we live and move and have our being."


Wednesday, February 17, 2016


In the previous blog I mused a bit on the preposition "to" in the Lenten phrase "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."  Soon after posting those thoughts I realized there is another preposition in the phrase.  This is the often assumed if unspoken "from."  If "to" implies the journey and experience of life as we know it, then "from" invites us to consider the origin of this life.

In the biblical story of creation the name given to newly created humankind is "Adam" which literally means "from the earth."  Adam is not a personal name for an individual, but rather a descriptive name for the whole species.  Humanity comes from the earth.  

The chemical composition of a human body contains the same elements that make up the planet and atmosphere we call "earth."   We are mostly water (hydrogen and oxygen approximately 75%) and mineral (carbon approximately 19% ), with smaller amounts and traces of another dozen or so gases and minerals.  

Too often we think of earth as the ground beneath our feet when in actuality earth is the land and all that lies beneath, the rivers, lakes and oceans that cover a majority of its surface, as well as above in the thin layer of life supporting gasses we call atmosphere. From the earth means we are all of this. We are dirt, water and air.  We are body and spirit.  We are bread, water, and breath.

Even our thoughts and imagination come from the earth.  Consider these words from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's Human Phenomenan:  

"To think we mush eat...Sometimes we need bread; sometimes wine, sometimes the infusion of a chemical element or hormone; sometimes the stimulus of color; sometimes the magic of sound passing through our ears as a vibration and emerging in our brain in the form of an inspiration…so many different thoughts come out of the same piece of bread! Just like the letters of an alphabet, which can produce incoherence as well as the most beautiful poem ever heard, the same calories seem to be as indifferent as they are necessary to the spiritual values they nourish.”

We are Adam.  We are Human. We are "from the earth."

So, now we have "to" and "from," but beyond both lies "where."   

Next week our Lenten Pilgrimage of Prepositions continues.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. ~ Genesis 18:27

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

~ from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer burial service

We are stardust. We are golden. And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden. ~ Joni Mitchell

Incarnation is already redemption...Christmas is already Easter because in becoming a human being, God already shows that it's good to be human, to be flesh.   ~ Richard Rohr

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day in the Christian Tradition when we are ritually reminded of human mortality and frailty by having ashes placed on our foreheads in the shape of a cross.   Liturgically, we listen to, read, and recite biblical passages about sinfulness and the need for penitence and redemption.

But what if the ashen cross reminds us, as Richard Rohr says, that "Incarnation is already redemption?" What if our salvation is in finally discovering who we really and already are.  

And, who are we?  According to one blunt description I recently read on the internet: "We are ghosts driving a meat covered skeleton made of stardust riding a rock floating through space."  The humbling imagery of Ash Wednesday is even more blunt:  We are dirt - we live - then we are dirt again. Dust to dust.

However, between the "dust" of birth and death is a tiny preposition expressing motion toward a particular destination.  In the "to" we are amazing creatures with intelligence, imagination, desires, emotions, hopes, dreams, and so much more!  The "to" is awareness of the mystery and wonder of it all, mystery and wonder that infuses all of creation and especially humans, eternal mystery and wonder that many of us call God. But not a God over and apart from creation, rather, God with us, in us, and through us.

Ash Wednesday is a day to contemplate mortality in order to remember immortality.  The awesome (in the true sense of the word) "to" we call life is our destination, now and always!

As on recent past Ash Wednesdays, I invite those of you in the Clearwater area to join in a different kind of observance that captures some of my thought above.  If you can, please join us!  If not, then wherever you may be, I encourage you to, in some way whether attending a formal service, sitting in silence somewhere or going for a walk, take a few moments today and reflect on your immortality - your "to".

 “Stardust to Dust
--a Deep Time Creation Liturgy
for Ash Wednesday”

Wednesday, Feb. 10, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Trinity Clearwater Presbyterian Church sanctuary

A multi-sensory, multi-media, contemplative liturgy of humanity and the cosmos through a guided, self-paced station to station pilgrimage that connects the miracle of creation with the wonder of life, seeking new dimensions & understandings of our presence and responsibility in God’s creation.
You may begin the pilgrimage anytime within the designated times.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Believe It or Not?

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe. ~ Thomas, John 20:25

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. ~ Jesus, John 20:29

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ~ Hebrews 11:1

"I'll believe it when I see it."

The absurdity of this statement really hit home early this morning.  You see, I've been hoping to see the current alignment of 5 planets in the early morning sky.  Unfortunately I'm learning that here in "sunny" Florida this time of year early mornings have a tendency to be cloudy or foggy, evolving into clearer skies later in the day.  This was the case again today.

As I gazed into a cloudy horizon I couldn't see the planets but I knew they were there and believed they were aligned just as scientists and friends who have see them say so.  I couldn't see the alignment but I believed it was there.  If I saw it, belief would have become null because then I would have known it.

I wonder how much of of our understanding of beliefs (whatever those may be) is distorted because what we really want is verifiable knowledge?   Then, if we don't have proof we don't believe it.  This is belief leading to knowledge, and this kind of belief could be just another word for hope.

I could also say, "I know the planets are there and aligned," but only through the stories or testimony of others whom I trust.  This kind of knowing is what I think of as "faith."  Faith is knowing something is true (but not necessarily factual), even when you don't have verifiable proof, because you trust your source of information.   Faith is belief that grows from trust.

Without going too far down this rabbit hole, because it only leads us to absurd questions about the sound of trees falling in the woods and God creating rocks too big for God to move, for me it all comes down to belief becoming faith built on trust. This leads me to the question: Could "trust" be just another world for love.

Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. ~ Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:13

By the way, even though I didn't get to see the planet alignment, I did see this (clouds are good for something - believe it!):