Lent Blog #5 – 2013

March 20th, 2013

3/20/2013

The Trinitarian nature of our faith is always an intriguing description.  It may be too simplistic, or too narrow to offer the fullness of the images of God, but it has historic root.   The historic Trinitarian view lumps a host of images into three generalities.   It is not necessarily Biblical but evolves from the tradition of the church which tried to simplify the expressions of God so that people could comprehend greater possibilities.

Those early faith ancestors recognized in the Biblical record that God, the Sacred Holy Being at the core of all that is came in a variety of forms and styles, depending on the need.  Stories evolved about a God who was a creator, a prime mover over the face of the universe; A God who had directions and expectations for the creation and the creatures made.  It was a God who sometimes was known as a voice on the wind, or the presence at a covenant fire; as powerful as a caster of plagues or fiery pillar.  God appeared in smoke and high up on mountaintops, or hidden away in Holy of Holies.  But it was also a God who was silent at times with a people who could not hear or discern where or what God was about.

It was this God that was worshipped on high places with incense and sacrifice so that the rising smoke and aroma would reach the nose of this being high above and beyond us.

But there are also stories that evolve around a man, who by faith is claimed to be the incarnation, the enfleshed presence of God on earth.  This visage of God moved among us, wept for us, taught us, bled and was bruised and died.  But this image of God was so powerful and filled with life that death was not an end in itself but only a passage into something more.

There are also moments in the Old Testament and the New, in which the presence of God is felt in spirit, without form, moving among us, and more importantly within us.  This spirit, is the breath we breathe, the presence we sense, the courage we lack, the hope we need.

The Trinity is a way of speaking about a God who has multiple forms, not separate realities just different glimpses of the same Holiness.  But the Trinity also is a way of recognizing that this vision of God holds itself in relationship.  There a God who affirms and relates to the Christ on Earth.  It is an intimate sharing that is as strong as the love of a parent for a child.  But the unique nature of Trinitarian theology is that the third glimpse of God is the one that is instilled in us.  It means we also have this relationship with God because a part of this God is alive with in, the Holy Spirit that moves within us.

To speak in Trinitarian Theology is to acknowledge the variety of glimpses of God that are given to the human creature, but also to affirms the intimate sharing with the holiness that God has intended from the beginning.

QUESTION: To what images of God that are both Biblical, but also imaginative beyond the Bible, are you drawn?  Does your theology include a sense of God within?

Lent Blog #4 – 2013

March 13th, 2013

Many of you know that I have been fascinated by the trilogy of the Matrix.  There are two primal characters in these stories.  One calls himself the architect.  It is he that designed the matrix and has recognized the fallibility of the human presence in the construct and so devises a way to repeatedly correct the anomaly in the field.  It requires that the Matrix be destroyed every so often and a new generation of matrix rebuilt on the DNA of one special human being who carries the design forward.  This God presence is cold and calculating.  He is dispassionate and un-invested except intellectually.

The other primal presence is the Oracle.  She is a grandmotherly sort who bakes cookies, who mentors and teaches, who guides.  She is approachable and caring.  She sees the possibilities, she offers hope, and she lives with the human community within the matrix.

My vision of God recognizes that both of these images are a part of the balance.  I sense that there is a powerful force that is Holy Being of Divine energy which creates the universe and holds it in balance.  It is what some call the omnipresent, omniscient God.

But I find that there is an intimacy I need with this holy presence.  Something inside my own soul wants this one who is the master creator of all things to know with intimacy the holiness that is sparked within me.  I need a huggable God.  I need an Oracle grandmother who bakes cookies and knows my name, a God who knows this life from inside out.  I find more security, confidence and faith in this edge of God than in the calculating mathematician/physicist who designed the whole project in the first place.

QUESTION: What image helps you comprehend God, gives you a sense of the presence of God?

Lent Blog #3 – 2013

March 6th, 2013

I celebrate the work that has unfolded in Europe as a result of the Hadron Collider.  This oversized particle smasher that is a 17 miles long circular tunnel , has been designed for the primary purpose of crashing particles at super speeds in order to effect something akin to the Big Bang.  The results are the instantaneous and momentary revelation of sub particles called Boson Higgs particles which are space-time itself.  They help explain why some of the first particles acquire mass (like electrons, protons and neutrons), and others do not,( like photons, the component of light).   Last year they were able to achieve a glimpse of this particle which the popular press dubbed the God-particle, because it is the core of creation.  But many in the scientific community balk at the use of the word, believing that science is science and faith is faith and the two do not cross.

In my belief system, all particles are God particles.  Every cell, every atom bears the imprint of creation and therefore, of the sacred movement that brings creation into being.  I believe that sacred energy is not only found in the soul of the human being, but in every living creature.  In fact I believe it is indwelling in every particle of the universe (or the multiverse as some now come to hypothesize we may not be the only universe created).   Even the rocks and the trees, the sand and the stars sing for God, suggests the Psalmist.   Poetic as it is, I have a strong faith feeling that it is true.   God is invested in all things, making all things sacred.  This requires, demands that we be better stewards of creation.  It is not for our use and abuse, but bears God in its life.  We are connected by our shared creative history.  We are all made up of God particles.

QUESTION: Where does Holiness reside for you?  Are all things sacred or are there things that are not sacred?

Lent Blog #2 – 2013

February 27th, 2013

2/27/2013

Theology is story telling.  And so is the entirety of the both the Old and New Testaments.  It is our want to touch a truth that is felt deep in the heart, grounded in the soul, but something that in itself has no words, only a sense, a feeling, a spiritual assumption.    It is like trying to describe the beauty of a sunset and realizing that we cannot convey its impact without creating words and images that describe it, that relate it to some previous experience that makes sense out of awe, wonder and beauty.

By weaving it into story, we can help people grasp the feeling, the meaning because by the power of imagination, a good story allows us to wander into the landscape and the experience and make it somehow our own.

Our faith ancestors felt something about their own frailty and failings, and wanted to convey that it was somehow present in the beginning of life.  Therefore stories are told of a first man and a first woman and how they came to be together at God’s creative touch, and breath; how they failed to appreciate or understand the relationship with the holy core of Life and lost it.  They told stories about murder, and about deceit, about blessings, and about hope; about the wonder of God’s presence and the fearsomeness of it as well.   These stories and all that follows are not as historical as they are intended to be spiritually biographical.  They give us a sense of how we live as humans, and ask the continuous questions: what are our failings and our potentials, how might we experience the holiness that gives rise to creation, that moves throughout life, that is expressed in love?

If you ask me if the Biblical stories are all true, I will respond that they are the truth as experienced by communities across time and carry that truth even for us.  If you are asking if the Biblical story is factual, and biographical, I would respond that it was the best way that those who experienced dimensions of God could convey it with the editing and translating for a  the purpose of convincing and  teaching.

Even Paul in his letters, and the writers of the gospels are hearing the truth and interpreting it, translating it, shaping its story for the purpose of instilling and inspiring faith.

QUESTION:  How do you hear the story?  More importantly, how does the story move you?

Lent Blog #1 – 2013

February 20th, 2013

As I come to the moment of my retirement, some of my friends and parishioners have been encouraging me to share in my preaching some of my personal beliefs.  It seemed benign at the time and I prepared a Lenten series that was a basic course in theology 101: What are the core understandings that help give shape and substance to my faith.  It is in fact what I was asked to do in a Constructive Theology Class my third year of Seminary with Dr. Paul Rademacher.  I believe that his theological framework was probably more fundamental than mine, but what he was wanting to teach us was that theology wasn’t something that one could memorize.  You could learn what theologies had been developed by others (Barth, Tillich, Niebuhr, Weatherhead, Kierkegaard, Gutierrez, Ruther, Borg, etc.).   But ultimately each of us needed to come to some clearer description of what we believed.  It is  one of the best learnings I received from seminary and one which I have tried to encourage the people in the churches with which I have worked to claim for themselves.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending upon your perspective), the opportunity has come for me to journey to Liberia during Lent.  As wonderful as the experience will be, it will be an intrusion into the preaching series.  Which leads me to frame some of those basic theological contexts in the blogosphere.  It is not a reflection of what I expect everyone to believe, but only the formation of what helps give my own faith a framework of understanding.

The question will always be: are you comfortable with yourself as the theologian?

Can you take responsibility for using your own imagination to interpret what your heart holds as truth?  Is your theology growing and developing, or have you fixed it, made it solid and unmovable?  Some of you are far more confident and evolved theologically than me.  Take these for what they are worth without expecting absolutes that you can claim wholesale.

Lent Blog #6

March 28th, 2012

John 14:25-26

The Christian Church historical evolved an understanding of God that divided this reality into ways the human being can experience the divine: The Creator (traditionally named Father, but more a parenting and loving authority figure); Christ (an incarnational understanding that lets God become human and walk among us, leading us as a friend and guide to a new understanding of the intimacy of faith and the power of life over death, and to whom traditional theologies attach the concepts of salvation and atonement); and the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit seems to be the after thought, a gift Jesus promises will replace his presence in our lives.  But it always strikes me the images of God in the first two realities of the trinity seem to be almost artificial, intended to allow us to gain an understanding of the power and depth of love and the capacity for life and creation.  These image are so strong we sometimes confuse them with the reality that they are suppose to represent.  But the Holy Spirit is the more pure form of God, the more natural way of actually knowing God since it comes without a lot of imagery.  We speak of it in honest simile and metaphor.  It is like the wind, it is like a flame. Etc.   It is in essence pure spiritual energy that has no form until it fills up our hearts, and has no voice until we shape the words in our souls.  It has no way to convey its meaning until it touches our imaginations.  But it is the very reality that has been investing in creation, guiding in liberation, empowering in faith.  This may not be the afterthought but the very core of God.

QUESTIONS

How would you describe the Holy Spirit to a friend?

When have you felt the movement, the fluttering of God, the Holy Spirit within you?  How do you name it?

Is the Trinitarian form a help in knowing and experiencing God’s spirit?

We are also discussing these blogs on Facebook, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CUMCLent2012/

Lent Blog #5

March 21st, 2012

Matthew 1: 1-16

The birthing records of Matthew and of Luke are always included though rarely read, because they give a linear connection to the House of King David, and before that to Abraham.  We make sure he has a historical context.  But then in the next breath (maybe even the same breath), we declare him “Son of God” and have worked out a mysterious telling of birth story to make that connection.  Thus Jesus became the quintessential human form, divine and human.

Some believe he was born this divine self and therefore had access to the hidden knowledge and power.  Other’s emphasize the humanness of him and find in it a more powerful representation of one who was surrounded by our temptations, knew our confusions, frustrated by our living patterns and still in the middle of it all refused to accept anything less than the presence of God in every moment.

QUESTIONS

Is your faith deepened more in the mystery of God incarnate or in a human being with absolute faithfulness in the midst of the human experience?

Is the Spirit of Christ that was in Jesus something you think you can move toward yourself, or so over the top that it is not worth trying to experience?

In the final convergence of thought by the historic church, the nature of Jesus as the Christ, fully God and fully human is just a mystery.  Can you lie with that?  Or do you find faith strengthened in the wondering and questioning?

Does Jesus manner of death speak to you about a divine life?

Lent Blog #4

March 14th, 2012

Psalm 90

“What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,
to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—
nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.”

(Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2 – William Shakespeare)

The above quote, memorized by my generation when put to music in the musical “Hair,” grasps some of the incongruities of the human experience.  We have the capacity to reason to think, to be creative.  Our capacity for communication seems to be more complex than most of the other species with whom we share this earth.  We are (as far as we know) the only beings who comprehend a divine source beyond, beneath, within the creative order.  We believe ourselves to be a little less than the angels.

But then we also are capable of such destruction.  We can wound a soul with words, and can wipe out entire populations without feeling remorse.   We are made of the same substance of matter as everything else in the universe (star stuff, by Carl Sagan’s words).  We are dust.  Our Bodies are destined to be dust again, we are nothing more than extensions of the earth itself.

QUESTIONS

What does it mean to be human?

Is being an extension of the earth enough?

The early people of God understood themselves to be created in the image of God? How is that reflected in our creativity and imagination?  How does the human soul dance within this definition?  Does it reflect our capacity for Love and relationship?  How do we reconcile our proneness for destruction, anger, hostility and hatred?

Lent Blog #3

March 7th, 2012

Genesis 1:1

Black holes are those astrophysical realities that exist where an object of such mass and gravitational force is pulling all things around toward itself.  Thus nothing, not even the energy of light particles, is emitted by it.  We assume they are there even though we can’t see it.  And so we name it “Black Hole” in order to identify it and focus on it, guided by the impact it has, not by what we see directly.

God exists in much the same way.  God is a being that by definition is greater than the creature that senses God’s creative spirit in the formation of all that is.  How do we find definition of God between mental concept, spiritual imagination and the power to impact or invest in the physical reality of creation itself?  We use our imaginations (gifts of God we say) and give God shape so that we can identify with this being greater than ourselves.  Because something inside of us senses a personal relationship we frequently shape this image as a reflection of our own human existence.  God is “father” or “mother”.  God has hands.  God speaks.

How do you imagine God?  Why is that image helpful to you to experience God?  When is that image limiting for you?  How are the imaginings of creatures like us limiting a more full understanding of God when we get hung up on the image and not the reality behind the image?

You may add your comments and thoughts to this page or you may participate in the Facebook discussion page at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/CUMCLent2012/.

Lent Blog #2

February 29th, 2012

Psalm 8

I am impressed with the work of George Seurat and his pointillism style of painting.  The renowned “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jattewhich hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is probably one of the more familiar representations of this style.  The artist uses pure color dots which, when arranged in areas and hues together produce a textured image that is amazing.  In order to comprehend the work, you have to step back and see the whole thing.  Otherwise you are only looking at small dots of paint.

I assume that God is a Big Picture God.  The comprehension of the universe is held by an infinite God. If that is true, I wonder if God ever sees the small dots in their own pure separated and isolated state?  That is, does God see our day to day activity?  Is God invested in, share in, impact what happens dot by dot, moment by moment?  Is God aware of each particle of dust on a small planet in an outward arm of a spiraling galaxy?  How can God give attention to the details of life and still see the whole movement of life in its entirety?

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER PONDERING

How does the God who is engaged at the core of the universe, is the creative energy itself, beyond imagination, become engaged in the weekly and daily lives of creatures like us?

Is God concerned about my brand of toothpaste? Or just about big things like war?

You may add your comments and thoughts to this page or you may participate in the Facebook discussion page at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/CUMCLent2012/