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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It's Our Job!

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…God said…'let there be…and there was'...
…‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ 

…it was very good!”      ~ Genesis 1

The first story of the Hebrew and Christian Bible says the entire universe, with particular emphasis on Earth, is created by and from God. I say "from" in order to point out that the mode of creating is speech that emanates from God. All that exists (yes this includes you and me) is the expression of Divinity.

According to this story the primary reason for the creation of humanity is to care for Creation, which is in a sense also caring for and loving God. And what is the "first commandment?" Love God with all our heart, mind, and soul.

Another "first" in the Protestant Christian tradition is the first question and answer of the Catechism:

What is the chief [purpose] of [humanity]? 
The chief [purpose] of [humanity] is to love God and enjoy God forever.

Now, substitute "Creation" for "God."

It is our purpose. It is our job to care for the only home we have!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Spring Welcome!

We are into the second day of Spring and I'm reminded of a past OEP blog.  Here's a slightly new rendition:

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!
~ Robert Browning, Pipa Passes

"...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..." 
~ Genesis, Psalms, Matthew, Romans

I first heard and learned the words of Robert Browning's Pipa Passes 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 spring 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 knew the Universe was listening. 

Now I know that "all's right with the world" not because everything is always right but because the Universe that heard my boy soprano solo is whole and complete, which is a biblical understanding of "good."  This also gives deeper dimension to the liturgical exchange I first heard at a church youth gathering: "God is Good!" - "All the time!" - "All the time!" - "God is Good!"  I've also come to understand and experience that the "heaven" God is in surrounds and fills us right here, right now.

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 seasons, the sunrise, the hillside, the dew, the lark, the snail the thorn, and even stormy skies are always witness to and reminder of One Eternal Presence.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Fragile Anticipation

I got a phone call the other day to tell me that a friend died by taking his own life. Since then a profound sadness has at times enveloped me, but mostly it lies just below the surface of my going about daily life. I know that in time the sadness will submerge and subside, some settling deep within as a part of who I am, and some residing as fond memories and stories. I know all of this because there have been other "phone calls" in my life from and about other friends and family.

With each sadness always comes a deep sigh of appreciation and gratitude - appreciation of the fragility of life and gratitude for the perseverance within the gift of life. Each and every breath we take is a mysterious, invisible source of life.  But, as the cliche goes the next could be our last. Yet even the tense of my verb "could" assumes there will be another breath, and another, each filled with fragile anticipation. When, by whatever means it comes, even the final breath anticipates, "What's next?" 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mother God

Long before God was imagined as a  tribal warrior or sovereign king, the primordial understanding of Divine was a fertile, female giver of life. Even as the male image of a Father God has become dominate in modern religions, Mother God persists in language and imagery that ranges from Mother Earth, to God's Womb, to Mother Hen, to Spirit Sophia, to Mother Mary, and more.

Today, March 8, is International Women's Day, a day to recognize, contemplate, and celebrate the central role of women in human history and human hope for the future. Today is a day for each of us to reflect on the life giving, Divine, feminine within, around, and through all creation, not just one day but every day.

I hope all women will embrace their life-giving Divinity. I hope all men can recognize and honor the Divine Feminine that gives and nourish their lives, and all life.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Greater Love

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. ~ Jesus, John 15:12-14

More often than not the bold portion of the above quote is used in reference to someone dying for another person or cause, and usually in the line of military or civic duty. These are occasions and times for appropriate and solemn recognition of profound, personal sacrifice which should be held with respect and dignity. However, a close look at these words of Jesus, in their context, shows them to be among the most misunderstood and improperly used sayings of Jesus.

Within its context what does it mean to "lay down" one's life?  The Greek verb translated here as "lay down" is Tithemi which has a variety of meaning.  Here is how the Thayer and Smith Greek lexicon defines it:

  1. to set, put, place
    1. to place or lay
    2. to put down, lay down
      1. to bend down
      2. to lay off or aside, to wear or carry no longer
      3. to lay by, lay aside money
    3. to set on (serve) something to eat or drink
    4. to set forth, something to be explained by discourse
  2. to make
    1. to make (or set) for one's self or for one's use
  3. to set, fix establish
    1. to set forth
    2. to establish, ordain
Conspicuously absent from these definitions is "dying." Quite the contrary, to lay down one's life for a friend is an act of commitment to intentionally love that person as we are loved by Jesus. In this sense to "give" one's life is to give the substance and energy of daily living in service and love of others.

Today as Christians around the world stand on the threshold of Lent and celebrate Ash Wednesday, perhaps reading and hearing Jesus' words in this way can give us some fresh ways to think about what we are really called to lay down, or "give up" when we follow Jesus. Laying down our lives in greater love is about how we choose to live each and every day.