The picture to the right is of a river that meanders across the Siberian tundra, following the contours of the land, creating a picturesque snake-like trail. I think sometimes how my own meanderings are like this river: slow, going with the contours of the land, not rushed, and not in any way a straight journey from point A to point B. Meandering requires time and a readiness to go wherever the land takes you–kind of like our own journeys with God.
Here’s another wrap-up of my latest meanderings on the web, some of which I hope you may find challenging, enlightening and encouraging. Don’t be afraid to follow the links given here and on the pages you visit. Maybe these will take you on a journey that is just what you need at this moment in your life.
* * * * * * *
“That They May All Be One”
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as [God] knows me and I know [God]. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason [God] loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again…” Many [said]…”He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?” Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (Excerpt from John 10: 11-21)
A rabbi told me that a town with two Jews would need three synagogues: The one I go to; The one you go to; and one neither one of us would be caught dead in. Christians are much the same. But Jesus’ prophetic words assure us that someday, God’s people will ALL be one – within and across faith groups.
Jesus clearly does not have uniformity or immediacy in mind as he prophetically and with certainty says he WILL gather “other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I MUST bring them also…There WILL be one flock one shepherd.” We don’t know how this will happen any more than we know how cancer, AIDS, or other scientific mysteries will be solved, but like each of these, God will use people like you and me in the process.
People in Jesus’ day were as divided about Jesus’ prophecy as we are today…mosques or no mosques; synagogues or no synagogues; churches or no churches; gay marriage or no gay marriage; ways to worship, receive communion, or baptize. And yet, we act as if God, knowledge, or love itself is something we can own, limit, control or divide. But the day will come when our blindness will be healed and all who seek to love God with all their heart, soul and mind and their neighbors as themselves will be one, even in the midst of difference.
Imagine the excitement of those whose eyes Jesus opened who began their day having never seen or expected to see a sunset, the twinkle in a child’s eye, or a shooting star, but went to bed having seen them all. Now imagine embracing Jesus’ promise as we celebrate who we are and what we believe today. Imagine expecting God to open our eyes to see beyond current limits of our languages, metaphors, and borders. Imagine the pure joy of having seen and revealed a new path to peace…and then closing our eyes at the last, having seen God’s creation power at work–making all things and people brand new, at any age. Imagine!
Gracious, Stillspeaking, Still Creating God: Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see You, I want to love You and love all my neighbors as myself. We love You. Help us love You more. Amen.
–Reflection by Ron Buford, taken from StillSpeaking (www.ucc.org)
* * * * * * *
C.S. Lewis & Big Tent Christianity
I found this blog meandering through several layers of other blogs linking finally to Faith Forward and this page on Christianity, the conservative/liberal divide and “Big Tent Christianity” (a Lewis-inspired term). The blogger, Jason Derr, takes us to Lewis’ own experiences to show us what Christianity needs to become:
For many in my childhood church the conservative faith – and its narrow definitions – was neatly summed up and defended by CS Lewis. Ignoring his own shifts in view – neatly documented in Marcus Borg’s ‘Putting Away Childish Things’ – Lewis is the very definition of Evangelical: an intelligent, theologically informed and conservative layman neatly contesting with the issues and questions of his day. There is much a Christian of any generation or school of thought can learn from him, in method if not message.
As we consider the church as intentional community let us turn to the method of CS Lewis, and in that turning let us look at a specific practice, namely The Inklings. Well known among Evangelicals The Inklings were a group of writers that Lewis and his brother met with at a pub sometimes referred to as The Bird and The Baby. Among this group were JRR Tolkien of Lord of the Rings fame as well as author Charles Williams and lay-philosopher/solicitor Owen Barfield. Other members at times included Dorothy Sayers who was known for her detective novels, plays, poetry, advertising copywriting and the feminist essays contained in the collection Are Women Human?. (Debate ranges as to whether Sayers was actually an Inkling).
The method that becomes present is the gathering of diverse voices to share and workshop ideas. While the participants primarily shared from their fiction works many of the members where known for their theological, religious and philosophical writing and it can be assumed they shared from these works as well. Lewis, for instance, in addition to being known as the writer of the Narniaand Space Trilogy books was also known for his Mere Christianity which sought to articulate conservative theological perspectives to the layman. Charles Williams, who wrote supernatural thrillers, was also known for his book The Descent of the Dove, an unconventional history of the church. Barfield, a lay-philosopher, worked primarily in the realms of language and consciousness and produced books such as Poetic Diction: A Study In Meaning.
What becomes clear is that each member of the assembled group was able to present and workshop their ideas – and thus welcome feedback and critique – in a space where all were welcomed. When we pry deeper into the Inklings themselves we find people who do not all mirror Lewis’s theological convictions. Barfield was greatly influenced by mystic-philosopher/new Age hero Rudolph Steiner and Barfields work have had continued influence on that audience. Williams was as influenced by sorcery and secret societies as he was by Christian mysticism.
The Inklings then become a microcosmom of the bigger goal of Christianity as we enter the new century. Moving from positions of authority and doctrine to a position of narrative, mutuality and co-inquiry faith becomes about the intentional gathering of people touched by, sustained by and called out by the Jesus story. The community expects to gather and be shaped by ‘love God and love your neighbor’ while allowing for multiple conversations of what this means, how to do it and what it looks like for us as a community. The mission is not to convert the world to our right doctrine but to invite a conversation through which faith and spirituality can be nurtured and grown. (Read more here.)
* * * * * * *
More on Ann Rice & Religion
‘. . . It was surprising to find, via Facebook, that she “quit being a Christian.” “In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”’
‘And then, a few days later she explained that she “quit Christianity in the name of Christ on this page so that [she] could tell [her] readers [she] was not complicit in the things that organized religion does.”’
‘These are, I think, all understandable sentiments. And they are not surprising. She deals with many of these issues in her memoir and yet seems to transcend them in a way that is admirable. She was willing to sign on with this crazy bunch of disciples anyway. “If one becomes too involved with doctrinal arguments and sexual and gender controversies,” she explains, “one can be alienated from the Lord. I can’t allow that to happen.”’ (Read more here.)
I share many of Ann’s sentiments and am tempted often to distance myself from what people are doing “in the name of God.” It’s not hard to find so much wrong with Christianity–especially if you look in America.
But the things that I find that are RIGHT–healing, refreshing, encouraging, invigorating, and Jesus-like–keep me in this diverse, very human, and yet still hopeful movement.
* * * * * * *
Brian McLaren writes (also on the EV Weblog) about adding modifiers to theology (i.e. post-colonial theology). Here’s some of what he says:
By distinguishing some theology with a modifier – feminist, black, Latin American, eco-, post-colonial, or indigenous, we are playing into the idea that these theologies are special, different – boutique theologies if you will.
Meanwhile, unmodified theology – theology without adjectives – thus retains its privileged position as normative. Unmodified theology is accepted as Christian theology, or orthodox theology, or important, normal, basic, real, historic theology.
But what if we tried to subvert this deception? What if we started calling standard, unmodified theology chauvinist theology, or white theology, or consumerist or colonial or Greco-Roman theology?
The covert assumption behind the modifier post-colonial thus becomes overt, although it is generally more obliquely and politely stated than this:
Standard, normative, historic, so-called orthodox Christian theology has been a theology of empire, a theology of colonialism, a theology that powerful people used as a tool to achieve and defend land theft, exploitation, domination, superiority, and privilege.
If that doesn’t sound disturbing, I’m not writing well or you’re not reading well. . . .
. . . Could it be that our various modifiers these days signal parallel quests to rediscover – or create, or both – an authentic Christian faith, rooted in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, informed by the Scriptures, instructed by Christian tradition and history – and purged of longstanding and deeply embedded patterns of injustice? Could it be that diverse adjectives that have arisen – modifiers like emergent Christianity, big tent Christianity, missional Christianity, not to mention feminist, eco-, Latin American, black, and otherwise modified Christianity – are signs of diverse expressions of the same underlying impulse, or parallel mini-movements that will someday become one integrated movement? (Read more here.)
* * * * * * * *
The Problem with Grace
John Harrison (whose blog is Part-Time Preacher, Full-Time Curmudgeon) posted his sermon from yesterday entitled The Problem with Grace. Here’s a bite:
And that’s the problem with grace, you see. It is undeserved, and is lavished upon the undeserving. It is in fact militant in its desire for the least and the lost! Grace is not concerned with the ninety-nine. Grace must find the one lost sheep. Grace is not content with the nine secure coins. It is compelled to find the one which rolled away.
Grace cannot be earned, but nor is it something that can be simply possessed. It must flow from us. That is its nature. The unfit, the dreadful, the forgotten, the despised, these were the ones drawn to Jesus, not because he had all the rules in perfect order and could tell everyone, in minute detail, where and how they were wrong, but because he dared to break bread with them. To give his time and his attention, his love, and, yes, even his very life for them.
Grace calls upon us to act in that same way – not to be the keepers of the lists, but to be the salt of the earth and the light upon the hill. To break bread with the people no one would be caught dead with. To love the people who richly deserve our hate. To go looking for the lost sheep and the lost coin, and to do it with abandon. (Read it all here.)