Thursday, September 20, 2018

What "Evangelical" Could Mean

Been thinking a bit about the word "evangelical."
And what it could mean.

It could mean hope and welcome and peace.
It could mean "care for the earth."
It could mean "affirmation of science" and knowledge and reason and learning, the life of the mind, the world of our thoughts, the power of the god-given brain.

Yes, it should mean conversion, too.
From self, to selflessness.
From anger to kindness.
From fear to faith.

With the God of Psalm 23.
The God and Father of Jesus.
The kingdom of heaven in the Sermon on the Mount.
And the God of all peoples.
The God of so many guises and cultures.
The God always transcendent and mysterious.
The God so high above, and yet always close at hand.

Conversion, for sure.
Getting saved, you bet.
Not so much to go to heaven.
But to be of this earth.
And to be of one another.
As God intended.
If the Genesis account has any meaning.

Conversion, in so many ways:
From white privilege to the privileges of life for all.
From male dominance to equality.
From the fear of sexuality to it's celebration.

And what that could mean to the nation.
For the common good.
For the ties that bind.
For liberty and justice for all.
A citizenship defined by faith, hope and love.
Tearing down the walls that divide.
The rules that hurt women.
The borders that God despises.
The politics of wealth and poverty.

To build up and make new.
To elect women and men of good conscience.
To understand the importance of taxes.
To remind the rich of their responsibilities.
To provide living wages and ample benefits.
To do God's will on earth ...

It could mean so many positive things.
Gospel things.
Christ things.

It could mean things profound and good.
It could ... it really, really, could.
If only it would ...
If only it would.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

I Miss My Books

I miss my books.
Thousands of them I had.
Shelved and double shelved.
Many read entirely.
Some in bits and pieces.
Some again and again.
Some not at all.

But everyone of them a friend.
A comfort and a companion.
A reminder of great things.
Or small things, too.

But in the course of time.
Heading into interim ministry.
And then into retirement.
I had to say fare-thee-well.

Boxed up and given away.
Large sets sold on e-bay.
Some sent to a seminary in the Philippines.
Commentaries given to a young minister.

I miss them now and then.
But I'm glad to be free of them, too.
They served their purpose.
Even as I have.

Time hurries on.
And for the journey, less baggage.
Easier travel, for sure.
But I miss my companions.

Who, I hope, are serving others.
As they served me.
With insights and challenge.
Encouragement and comfort.

Thanks, good friends.
I miss you.
But you don't miss me.
You did your job, and now on to new employers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Friends

I have a million good friends.

Well, maybe not that many.
But folks who walk tall.
With open minds and gentle hearts.
A faith expansive and humble.
A sense of the common good.
And willing to pay the price for that.

Friends, who love.
Who have at the center of their life.
Something other than themselves.
Who read good books before the Wall Street Journal.
Who listen to good music before the news.

Who keep their souls balanced.
Who enjoy good food.
And lousy jokes.
The demands of the day.
And the poetry of love and trees.

Who smile with ease.
And care a lot.
Who laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Who cry for the suffering of the world.

Willing to take a stand for those who can't.
Who speak truth to power.
Who are not cowed by the rich and the mighty.
Who are tender-hearted.
And pay attention to the children.

You bet.
I've got lots of friends.
And they enrich my life.
Beyond words.

All I can is, "Thank you for being a part of my life."

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Gun Violence, Stand Your Ground, and Lamech's Pride


Been thinking a lot about this ... 
Sure, it was wrong to park in the handicapped spot ... 
It was wrong for the man with the gun to challenge the lady in the car, with her children ... what was hoping to accomplish?

Was it wrong for her boyfriend to come out and shove the man?
Perhaps he might have just confronted him. 
Or stood his own ground, without the shove.

But the man with the gun hits the ground, and what does he do? 
He pulls the gun, because the man shoved him. 
And then pulled the trigger and shot the man dead, in front of his children. 

I wonder if the gun gave him a bravado to confront the lady in the car? 
I wonder if the gun was his courage. 
I mean, packing heat, carrying iron, primed and ready to kill.

And now he'll live the rest of his days knowing that he's a killer, that he killed quickly, and without remorse, or so it would seem. Maybe he'll proud. His friends will slap him on the back and buy him a beer. The NRA will send him a t-shirt.

He didn't flee the scene; he knew what he would claim: self-defense. 
He knew he'd be on safe ground.
Had he given this kind of scenario a lot of thought?
Was he itching to use the gun?

The whole thing seems out of proportion. 
Biblically, this smacks of Lamech's pride and boasting.
Genesis 4.23 - violence out of proportion.

I can't help but feel that color played a roll. Maybe not, but I can't shake that part of the story, either. 

What I know for sure: a young man, a father of three, is dead ... because of a man with a gun. 

I suppose he'll be known as an NRA hero.


Long live Lamech.

Friday, July 20, 2018

"Let Love Be Genuine"

"Let love be genuine," and with that as the introduction (Romans 12.9-21), Paul adds a list of things that make love genuine; the first of which is "hate what is evil," which is a bit startling, when I think about it, that here is where "genuine love" begins - the absolute and complete rejection of what is evil.

Because if there's any collusion with evil, intentional or innocent, even a wee bit, the whole project, as Paul sees it, falls apart. If evil, and we'll get to that in a moment, is tolerated, genuine love dies and is likely to be replaced by "tribal love," the kind of love Jesus notes in suggesting that anyone can love those who are just like we are. But that's not love, not even close.

So, Paul cuts to the chase, no holds barred, no hesitation: Hate what is evil ... and, then, hold fast to what is good. In other words, we can get all fussy about what we don't like, but that's not enough; we have to have something positive to hold on to, something right and good to pursue, something to fill the heart, occupy the center, and keep us moving along the road of faith, hope and love ... something to offer to the world.

And, so Paul begins his list:

"Love one another with mutual affection" ... books could be written on this, and should be, yet the word that catches my attention is "mutual" ... a word filled with the power of equality ... we are all equal in the sight of God, and thus to love one another, to be mindful of one another, eliminates all distinctions, such as noted by Paul elsewhere: neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor master, neither male nor female - these powerful distinctions that drive and order our world (religion, economic status and gender) no longer count in Christ, and can no longer determine how love.

Next:

"Outdo one another in showing honor" ... more books, for sure, about how we honor one another, and while "competition" with one another on the usual suspects of religion, economic status and gender are deadly to the soul, the competitive effort to show honor to one another is heaven's game; here is where some of the rubber hits the road - because some parts of our world have no trouble getting honored, and some parts less so. Paul's imagery of the body in Corinthians coincides here - the more obvious parts that easily gain our honor is one thing, but paying attention to those parts that are easily overlooked is another. Immediately, I see how this dovetails with Paul's reminder of mutuality, with the big question: Who do we overlook? Who might we ignore? And who might we deem less than honorable, less deserving of our attention, our concern, our regard? Here is where faith and life collide, where faith and politics bump into another ... at the border, if you will ... or in places like Wall Street where economic status determines everything and in some churches where gender is lord rather Christ.

More later ...

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Growing Up and Leaving Home

Growing up is all about leaving home. And if my life-experience means anything, "leaving home" is a recurring event, sometimes by choice, and sometimes by circumstance beyond our control. However it happens, growth in thought and emotion requires that we leave our home, and what we do upon leaving home is to seek another one, and in between the one and the other, a lot of traveling, uncertainty, dead-ends and side trips, until we arrive somewhere that offers settlement, security, a place to call home.


But "this world is not my home, I'm just a passing through" says it well. And sooner or later, the new "home" becomes staid and boring, unproductive and damaging to the human spirit, the God-created human spirit that longs for adventure, for new learning, for fresh hope and new friends. So, we pack our bags again and take off. Some look at us and wonder why. What's wrong with home, because it's their home, too, and they've settled down in it, they've sunk deep roots, and others around them sink their own roots, too, and with tendrils and vines, ensnare one another, making it virtually impossible to leave, or at least to leave without great effort, to uproot ourselves, and likely uproot others, too, in the process, tearing away the tendrils of "love" that hold us in place, vines that encircle and clutch and cling and tell us, "stay put."

But the human spirit, energized by the creator of our spirit, yearns and leans, and pulls and tugs ... to seek freedom on the road, to find a new home, a home that will last for awhile, until the urge to leave again emerges.

To "stay home" eventually kills the spirit, and nothing more deadly than a dead spirit, because dead spirits still "live" like zombies, sucking the life juices out of the still-living. Sucking the life out of others, until they too die, and become part of the living dead, or something like that.

To "stay home" beyond the early years when home provides nurture, comfort and formation, is deadly. To "leave home" is essential to the soul's health, and ultimately to the home in which we were reared, because when someone leaves home, the home is changed, too, maybe even transformed into something ever-more dynamic and growing.

The road ahead always beckons, and the spirit yearns to get going.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Bridge Building in Harsh Times

I doubt.
I love.
I see.
I think.

Maybe I'm wrong.
Maybe I'm too quick.
Maybe I should step back.
Maybe I should try for more bridges.

And then I see the children.
I hear their parents weep.
I hear the patent lies.
And watch the vulgar piety.

How to build bridges when people are dying.
How to seek peace when cruelty is de rigueur.
When I'm branded a murderer for my abortion views.
When I'm a globalist and not a nationalist.

When every bridge is deemed heresy.
When political views will not honor women.
When theology loves hell more than heaven.
When government serves the rich and not the poor.

Maybe I'm wrong.
I have my doubts.
But so much is at stake.
And history shows:

In all its terror.
In all its honesty.
Those who built bridges with the Brown Shirts.
Ended up dead!