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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

For and Against

" one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against you is for you..."      Jesus to his disciples in Mark 9

"Whoever is not against you is for you" is a lot different from the inverse of the statement which seems to be more commonly used: "If you are not for me you are against me."  The main difference is in pure numbers.  There are a whole lot of people, probably most people in the world, who are "not against you", while those who actually know you and are "for" you are probably few in number.  

Jesus' way of seeing "for and against" immediately assumes inclusion and acceptance of others.  The other way assumes exclusion and rejection.

The 8th Chapter of Romans eloquently articulates the world view available to us when we discover the Eternal Presence of God, the Spirit of Christ, in our lives and the lives of others, the summation of which is:  "If God is for us who can be against us?"   And even though it is a rhetorical question, the answer is provided: nothing can "separate us from the  love of God."

A juxtaposition of Mark and Romans gives us a pretty good way to see the world:
Whoever is not against you is for you.  If God is for you who can be against you?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


…those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it…Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed…
Mark 8:35,38

-today's message is from my sermon Playful, Powerful Words, September 16, 2012:

Jesus uses the words that he nearly always uses to describe himself:  “Son of Man.”  This is a title with which the disciples would be familiar. It appears in numerous places in the Hebrew Scriptures and has a wide range of meaning that encompasses the fullness of the human/divine relationship.

By calling himself Son of Man instead of Messiah, Jesus places himself among not above humanity.  He offers his own life as the example and says follow me. And in doing so he shows us how to be truly and fully human - which also means claiming the divine spark within ourselves.

This is the “life” we discover when we loose the “life” we perceive as separate from God, and thus separate from one another, and all of Creation.
In other words, how can we be fully human, how can we live as we were created in the Divine Image, if we are ashamed of being human?

The life we give up and the life we gain can be put this way: We can see ourselves as fallen creatures unworthy of Divine love, or we can claim life as God infused humanity by following Jesus and living his words.

Ultimately, I think Jesus ends up saying, whoever we say he is, whatever words we use to describe him, will determine who we say we are.

And the words we use to describe ourselves, determine the words we use with others, which ultimately determine the life we live.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 10 and 12

If we really knew it was "goodbye", would we leave?
- Unknown

The Good News of the Gospel is that the worst thing is never the last thing!    
- Rick Wilson

For eleven years people around the world and in the The United States especially have paused on and around September 11 to remember and reflect.

We remember the surprise, the shock, the horror, and the deep sorrow.  We remember the unfathomable and senseless loss of life.  We also remember how for a brief moment the majority of the world was united by all of these things and joined together in condemnation of violence perpetrated in the name of militant religion.

As I remember and reflect I can't help but think of the before and after of that day.  I reflect on how the problems and worries of September 10, 2001 suddenly became far less so, and how the routine yet final meals, conversations, and embraces of so many people suddenly had lasting significance.  And then the sun came up on September 12.   The world, changed as it was, carried on.  We carried on in healthy, loving, constructive ways, as well as dis-eased, fearful and destructive ways.   And the world we live in today is significantly so because of the choices we made then and continue to make today in response to those and other shocks, horrors, and sorrows.

It may sound simple and perhaps even glib, yet profoundly true:  we have choices and make decisions every moment of every day that contribute to and create what tomorrow will be and how we look back and remember the "last" opportunities of our lives.

Everyday of our life is another chance, another September 10 or 12.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Meaningful Work?

"The opposite of vacation would be occupation, a word we commonly use to describe that which we do with most of our lives - our work."    -Sermon, Capitol Hill Presbyterian, Sept. 2, 2012.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."   Frederick Buechner on Vocation

As we leave the season of vacation and re-enter lives of occupation some people may again be entertaining questions like:  "Why am I doing what I do?", "Is my work meaningful?", or "Am I personally fulfilled by my work?"  And there are many people for whom the the question may be, "When will I work again?"   

Whatever our work may be or whatever work we may seek, answers to questions like those above are best found from within.  Work itself has no inherent value, meaning, or purpose.  Value, meaning, and purpose come from our own perspectives and can range all the way from "saving the world" to "paying the bills", "to meeting customers' or clients' needs", or simply because "we enjoy it."

Tradition has it that the Buddha said when someone asks, "Who am I?"  the answer is, "Who is asking the question?"

Is our work meaningful?  A lot depends on how we see it.  And then on how we go about doing it.

Here's a great "On Being" podcast on ", education, and civic imagination..."