Day 25: Light
Good Day and welcome to day 25 (hear Bob & Doug Mckenzie reference)
Light is such an amazing thing. It always wins out over dark. Just like nothing can stop water forever, light will always overcome dark. I think that is why it is such a powerful image in our faith and most every faith tradition in this world. The sun does rise. The candle does illuminate the darkness. The night light brings comfort. The light overcomes the dark.
The western understanding of faith may be experiencing a period of darkness but I can say without any question it will overcome the darkness. When it comes out it may no longer look like many remember but hey lets be honest we don’t have that great of a memory in the first place! The Pious Pilgrims didn’t celebrate Christmas (or even say Happy Holidays). Christmas was not even a federal Holiday until 1870! Things change all the time, and very often for the better. But the light shines and we can never imagine another way. Until we do.
And we will overcome, not somehow but Triumphantly!
Day 24: Joy
You ever notice how contagious Joy is? It is down right how annoying it is when you want to piss and moan about whatever it is that is bugging you and then they joy filled person comes passing by. Makes you just want to smack ’em sometimes, but you can’t instead you find yourself being sucked into the joy. You find the smile creeping across your face. That is the Joy we the “people of God” are supposed to be known for. When Pope Francis said “Who am I to judge?” He was making more of a comment on Joy in the presence of all people than some giant theological step for the Catholic church. Share Joy not smite! That is what he was saying.
The church is to make a Joyful noise to the lord, always. That is supposed to be what we are gathering for! Nehemiah said eat drink and be merry, and Share it! That is where we will find our strength.
Go eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord, and be Joyful!
Day 23: Neighbors
Funny how well this one would work for today or yesterday. It seems so obvious, yet it just isn’t. Even “us” progressive minded folks don’t tend to love our evangelical neighbors much. But love your neighbor is a core understanding. I think like my friend Derrick Weston said the other day in a blog post it just gets tiring. It wears a person out loving your neighbor. It is both the core piece and the hardest part to our entire faith and existence. So how about instead of trying to love those….. um I mean, focusing on what we don’t have in common, lets just focus on feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, visiting the sick and imprisoned, clothing the naked/oppressed and let the rest just fall into place.
Day 22: Sign
Do you need a sign? What more of a sign can you ask for than the obvious. What signs do you see today that tell you something is up? Are they this obvious? Maybe more? What do these signs call you to do?
Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. (Acts5:12)
Day 21: Prophet
I think there are many prophets living among us. The word however has become overburden. When we hear a prophet speaking our heart knows it, even if the word makes us deny it. Richard Rohr is a prophet among us this day. He is calling us to a new/old way of thinking and seeing our faith.
One of the things I like about the Hindu faith is they are much more free with the word Prophet. If somebody has a word that somehow moves us they can be a prophet. We need to work towards recognizing the prophets among us and the change they call us to.
My biggest dream in having children was passing my love and passion for skiing onto my own kids. On Saturday I got a glimpse of that future when my 8 year old son (along with his cousin) skied with joy down the ♦”expert only” chair. I know now that there is good news ahead. I now have hope for a new generation that has a love for the outdoors that cares. It really is Good News that future generations can and will change the world for the better. Now all we gotta do is wait.
Day 19: Patient
On Friday it snowed in Seattle. Seattle doesn’t do snow well. In fact they ought to just shut down the roads and tell everybody to stay home. Instead these folks hit the road and forget to bring their common sense with them. Being a person with lots of experience driving in snow I have to be patient with the fellow drivers. Patience is something I’m not good at. But I must be. Not everybody is ready for such dramatic change so quickly. I can’t expect they will be. Instead I have to be patient. Wish me luck!
Day 18: Mercy
Mercy is what the church has to give. Mercy is what the church over regulates. Today is one of those days as an ordained pastor that I am ashamed to be known as a “Christian”. Mercy is what the church is supposed to teach comes in bountiful amounts. We are to show that mercy has no constraints, that is abundant as the oxygen we breath. Yet today the United Methodist Church showed the world that instead of being the mediator of mercy we are the enforcer of judgement. Today, the United Methodist Church had an opportunity to show love and mercy to one of their own who was bestowing God’s love upon a couple committing their lives to one another. But instead of taking up the torch for a broader understanding of the kingdom, they chose to stick to some book of “rules”.
Mercy is something the world has an abundance of. We just don’t know how to exercise it. The church is supposed to teach us.
Day 17: Free
Free! What does it mean to be free? Are we free? Or does the church instead bow to a broken capitalist system? Does the church compromise it’s own ethics in order to live up to an economic system that is often counter to it’s values? Too often I see the church living to the value of the world. However if we believe that we are supposed to be a source of cultural change maybe we need to set ourselves free. Maybe we need to be more willing to be accused of being Marxist and recognize that our existence is not wrapped up in the value of our pension funds but in the actions we take. Free is not a savings to our bank account. Free is what the church is supposed to be to from the monetary system that has enslaved it. Let us find a way to exist beyond this system to show there is a better way.
To be honest this #rethinkadvent blog is getting tough. I have thought of quitting but oddly enough I have folks reading. So today may see formulaic but forgive me.
Strong is something we in the western world don’t do well, unless of course it is a show of excessive force. We in the western world don’t tend to preserver when things get tough. The church is no different. When we try something different the second we get negative feedback we quit what is making some friction and go back to “the way we have always done it”. If we are going to #rethinkchurch, we must be strong. We must preserver. We must push on in those tough places of new experiences to find that thing that will make a difference. But we can’t succeed until we accept that we are strong enough to do it.
Rejoice for there is hope.
This season as a life long (like the entire existence of this team) Seahawk fan has been one of rejoicing. Back in 1976 this team left a lot to be desired. Over the years there have been glimpses of excitement but with the exception of 2005 (when the steelers stole the super bowl from us) this has been a team that has been tough to follow. I even threatened to leave the first year I was living in Denver. I’m glad that didn’t stick!
One thing about this team is that when things were not working out they didn’t just dig in, they made changes. It took them time, and many failures. But as we see this season they may have all cylinders firing. So we can always rejoice knowing that there is always hope and we can’t quite just cause things look bad. So Rejoice! Rejoice! Cause Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Day 14: Gather
This is my family gathering place on Sunday morning. Our current pastor is Charles Osgood. We watch the stories and sometimes have to even hit pause to not miss anything because our conversation takes over. I’ll be honest, it’s not a good replacement for a worshiping community. It does not exactly motivate us to get out into the world and make a difference. But again, to be honest, neither did a formal church.
We are called to gather to remind each other what a Christian community can be. That gathering place will never be perfect but it needs to a place that makes us want to be better people. It needs to be a gathering place that is so concerned with what is happening outside the doors that it is willing to sacrifice everything it has to make a difference. It needs to be ready to move the gathering place to where it is most needed and we need to be ready to move with it.
As the author of Hebrews tells us: …let us consider how to [encourage] one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to [gather] together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…
Gathering is an important aspect of the community but don’t forget the ultimate point of it.
Day 13: Justice
Justice is what the world is looking for. Justice is what the church must emulate. When the church acts unjustly to people or animals or the environment it fads from relativity. This is a must if we are to rethink Church. The church is what people should be able to point to when the question of what is justice is asked.
… and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? -NRSV
Day 12: Hope
Hope. This is a kind of corny picture. It is a co-worker at our company Christmas Part. Here he has hope that nobody will take his prized gift in the White Elephant Gift exchange. But it is more than that it is the image of all of us. It is the hope we have that we have made the right choice, chose the right path, followed the correct guru. Whatever it is we each have hope for tomorrow.
Hope is what gets us up in the morning and lets us rest at night. Hope is also what the church provides (or should provide). I”m not talking about some cheesy hope that one day we won’t burn in some idea of eternal fire, but hope that one day the capital “WE” will figure it all out and make life better for the human race. Hope is what Advent forces us to look toward. It is the piece that makes waiting for “Christmas” worth waiting for. Don’t rush to quickly to the gifts and “stuff” of December. Instead wait patiently for what is to come but wait with Hope!
Day 11: Steadfast/Steady
This was a tough one. I wanted to get a picture of my own traffic, but that isn’t safe. When I think of steadfast I don’t currently think of myself. After all I did not hold steady instead I got out of the kitchen. But a steadfast attitude is going to be what it takes to rethink church. We need to move in a new direction and we can stop just because it becomes uncomfortable (see that is what I did and now I don’t get to play those change games anymore)
So don’t follow my lead. Get in there and push on!
Day 10: Holy
Holy? What is Holy? According to Wikipedia holy is that which is perceived by religious individuals as associated with the divine. The problem is who gets to be the arbiter of what qualifies as holy and what doesn’t If we are going to #rethinkchurch we must let go of our definition of Holy. We must be willing to broaden our understanding of Holy. Many of my friends (many other pastors) have often felt that maybe beer would work better for our communities when it comes to Communion. The point is to share in a common drink that is enjoyed by many. Its not that wine was something special in that day. It wasn’t! But if you ask many churches today if they would be willing to do this almost all of the time you will get a “NO!” Yes in my (not so) humble opinion Holy is a key component in rethinking church . Seek out the holy in the other but do it from their perspective. You may be surprised what you find.
Day 9: Delight
It is such a delight to float through the snow as if flying just over the ground. It is a feeling and sense I search far and wide to replicate when I can’t get out into new snow.
I went into ministry with the same passion. I went with a sense of passion to find the places where God was at work. It was in those places that I felt the same delight as when I was skiing over fresh powder. It wasn’t easy to stay there very often however because that place was a place that lacked control. It was not easy to replicate and it surely was not for the faint of heart. In order to rethink church we need to find that place of delight where our biggest passion meets the worlds greatest need. We need to take the church to that place and live into our call to be light in the world.
Where do you find delight? What’s stopping you from being there now? Tell me how you would delight to #rethinkchurch
When I first began to think of wisdom I wanted to be clever and play off the spirit/wind word play found in Greek and Hebrew. But the wisdom of the spirit can become too aloof when we cloak it in such play on word. To rethink church during this rethink advent season I think we need to be plain about it. We need to look to those spirits that have done a lot more rethinking then we have. So what better timing than to use Nelson Mandela as my image of wisdom in rethinking church.
“I was made, by the law, a criminal, not because of what I had done, but because of what I stood for, because of what I thought, because of my conscience.”
“Great anger and violence can never build a nation. We are striving to proceed in a manner and towards a result, which will ensure that all our people, both black and white, emerge as victors.”
“I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”
Day 7: Ready
The manger scene is set. But as tradition goes in our house (or so I try) baby Jesus is not in the scene. We can’t come to the manger with our own expectations. We need to come ready for anything.
We need to be ready and brimming with anticipation of what will happen next. The spirit is afoot and she has no rules. It only happens ‘like it always does’ when we aren’t willing to just be ready.
So be ready for whatever is going to happen, but also be ready for it to not look l like it always has.
Day 6: Awake
The funny thing is, the sun is still gonna rise tomorrow, at least for the foreseeable future.
So why not plan on the future being bright? Why not plan on things getting better? Why not assume the best?
Mark my words, the sky is gonna fall one day. But in the meantime we have a lot more stuff to do. Hungry people to feed, thirsty people to provide water for, people in need of clothing, sick and imprisoned people who would love a visit.
But for now just “stay awake”.
(Photo courtesy of Dan Parker, a co-worker with a better view than mine)
This is the town of Estes Park where I lived until very recently. It experienced a “1000 year” flood this past fall. Currently they are looking at what they need to do to not suffer the kind of destruction this flood did again. What are we the people that make up the church doing to not suffer the devastating losses we have experienced?
Day 4: Time
We keep hearing; “it takes time to change things” or even “time is on our side” the most annoying is likely “all in due time”. Let’s be honest culture announced back in 1966 in Time magazine that God is dead. Yet the church didn’t pay attention. They felt the pronouncement didn’t deserve a response. And so the church continued it’s slide into irrelevance.
Time is indeed the only true commodity in the universe and I hope we (the church) can finally begin to recognize our Theological role in helping to make time count.
It’s all a mess right now but to realize peace we must know we are an important piece of what is to come.
As part of my Advent new beginning I am hoping to re-engage the faith component of my life.
As such I’m talking on the simple task of a photo a day through Advent, with many other folks I know, to stir in thoughts about Advent and a new kind of church. With that here is day one (yesterday) for the word/thought/idea of “Go”