Tuesday
May272014

I am Thankful For

In no particular order:

God's Love

My wife

Mom and Dad and my brothers

Peaux and Roux

The people of Faith Lutheran

The people of Junction City

The story of Jesus and how it brings meaning to my life

Mountains and forests

The coast and the peace I always find there

Bugs and insects, especially ants which are pretty cool

The trees that bring shade and shelter

Rain that waters the earth

The sun that warms us and fuels all life

Weather of all kinds

The variety of people in the world

The technology that connects us all together

Computers, the internet, phones, watches, airplanes

Going fast and going slow

That the US has decreased it's carbon emissions for the last five years (we're at 1994 levels)

The civil freedoms we have in the western world

Music as it appears in all its forms

Opera, symphonies, songs, hymns

Books, games, theater, movies, television and all the ways we tell stories

My colleagues in the Emerald Cluster and the Oregon Synod

Those 4 ½ years I got to live in NYC

That I live in the Pacific Northwest

That I grew up in Louisiana and the heritage it gave me

That there are still places people sing together

Campfires, tents, sleeping bags

Hearty, rustic bread

That making bread isn't the only thing you can do with grain and making juice isn't the only thing you can do with grapes

Turkey and ham, mash potatoes and dressing and gravy

Gumbo and jambalaya

Etoufee and boudin

Smokey andouille sausage

Cracking the brulee

The many good friends I've made over all these years and the many good ways they have changed my life.

 

What are you thankful for? Make a list and keep it with you. You never know when it might come in handy.

Tuesday
May272014

God in the Dark

It's that time of the year. I often here that phrase, and when I hear it in October it usually means two things: It's getting dark and it's raining. Indeed I am up before the sun this time of year, and that only continues to be more true as we head toward December.

 

We usually think of God as light, and justifiable so. That is the image we tend to come across, since God is something and darkness is nothing; that is, darkness is the absence of something, namely, light, and not a thing itself. But is God also in the dark? Here's a nice quote from Gregory of Nyssa, who considers Moses ascending Mt. Sinai and drawing near to God in the dark.

 

Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21).

Moses entered into the darkness and there he saw God.

What does this signify? This present account seems in a way to con­tradict that of the first theophany. Then God appeared in light, but now he appears in darkness.

Yet we must not imagine this to be at variance with our normal experience of spiritual con­templation. By this statement the text teaches us that religious knowledge is first experienced as light. All that is seen to be opposed to religion is darkness, and darkness vanishes when we receive the light.But the more the mind advances and by ever increasing and more perfect application attains an intellec­tual comprehension of realities and approaches contemplation, the more clearly it sees that the divine nature is invisible.

Having left behind all appearances, not only those perceived by the senses but also those the intellect seems to see, it plunges ever deeper within itself, until by spiritual effort it penetrates to the invisible and the unknowable, and there it sees God. This is the true knowledge of what is sought. This is the seeing that consists in not seeing, because that which is sought transcends all knowledge, being separated on all sides by incomprehensibility as by a kind of darkness.

This is why John the contemplative, who had penetrated this luminous darkness, said that no one had ever seen God, declaring by this negation that the divine essence is beyond the reach not only of men but of every rational nature as well.

And so, when Moses had advanced in knowledge he declared that he saw God in the darkness, or in other words that he recog­nized that the Divinity is essentially that which transcends all knowledge and which no mind can apprehend.

The text says: Moses entered into the darkness where God was. What God? He who has made the darkness his covering, as David declared, who had himself been initiated into the divine mysteries in that same sanctuary. When Moses arrived there, he was taught by word what he had formerly learned from darkness, so that, I think, the doctrine on this matter may be made more firm for us by the witness of the divine voice.

The divine word at the beginning forbade that the Divine be likened to any of the things known by men, since every concept which comes from some comprehensible image constitutes an idol of God and does not proclaim God.

 

God is not darkness, but God can often be found there: in the darkness of the cross, in the darkness of tragedy, in the darkness of pain and sorrow, death and disease. God is so far above and beyond what we can think or imagine and for God “the darkness and the light are both alike.” Don't be surprised when he shows up.

Tuesday
May272014

The Dream

As I write this, fifty years ago today someone said something pretty important about our nation and who we might become. It was a speech given by a man who was named for the founder of our reforming movement. It is a speech that I think was inspired by faith and what our faith can say to our society. It is a speech we should not forget. You can watch it in full on youtube, which is probably better than reading it.

 

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.


Matin Luther King Jr.
Tuesday
May272014

August Sun

 

Heat

O wind, rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air--
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat--
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path. 

Hilda Doolittle

 

It is, as they say, hot out there. Though we have gained a respite this week, who knows what kind of temperatures we'll have through the rest of the summer. We yearn for the cool rain in summer, and for the sun and warmth in winter. You'd think we would get used to it by now, but I guess it's part of being human.

 

There is something about the sun on a hot summer's day that reminds me of God's love. It is bright, forceful, almost heavy in its power. We cannot look directly at it, we almost cannot bear it.

 

If I understand it at all, the concept of hell I tend to gravitate towards is that there is not a real hell, but that it is really heaven. It is the full, unfiltered experience of God's love, shining brightly upon us. But for some that full experience of God's love and presence will be a kind of hell, an unbearable beauty for a heart that desires ugliness and darkness and hate. Hell is the other side of heaven. Even now, we find ourselves struggling with God's love at times, its fullness, its openness, its reaching out in places we don't think it should go. Can God love those we find so unlovable? Can we endure that?

 

This summer, on those hot days, when the sun beats down so mercilessly, remember God's love for us. The two are not so different.

Tuesday
May272014

Zossima > Ivan

 

 

I have been re-reading through some of Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov lately. As perhaps you know, the book focuses on a familial conflict between the brothers and their father, but the book is much more than that. It contains within its pages a series of theological and philosophical propositions, put forth by different characters, propositions about how the world works, the role of faith and what the role of God might be as well as evaluations of the other views in the book.

There is a very well known section entitled “The Grand Inquisitor,” in which Ivan, the main character's brother, gives a rather pointed critique of the church as it was understood in the 19th and early 20th century, as well as making observations regarding human nature and freedom. It is interesting that while this section has grown in popularity, many forget the very different view of Father Zossima, the old monk who speaks of love and forgiveness and bearing the burden of others. He presents not necessarily an opposite view from Ivan, but definitely an alternative view. His words contain a wisdom for all who would follow Jesus, so I thought I would put a few choice quotes here to meditate on in those long summer afternoons:

My friends, ask gladness from God. Be glad as children, as birds in the sky. And let man's sin not disturb you in your efforts, do not fear that it will dampen your endeavor and keep it from being fulfilled, do not say, 'Sin is strong, impiety is strong, the bad environment is strong, and we are lonely and powerless, the bad environment will dampen us and keep our good endeavor from being fulfilled.' Flee from such despondency, my children! There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all. Whereas by shifting your own laziness and powerlessness onto others, you will end by sharing in Satan's pride and murmuring against God.

Love God's people. Because we have come here and shut ourselves within these walls, we are no holier than those that are outside, but on the contrary, from the very fact of coming here, each of us has confessed to himself that he is worse than other, than all men on earth. When he realizes that he is not only worse than others, but that he is responsible to all men for all and everything, for all human sins, national and individual, only then can the aim of our seclusion be attained. For know, dear ones, that everyone of us is undoubtedly responsible for all men and everything on earth.

Don't be afraid of anything, ever. And do not grieve. As long as your repentance does not weaken, God will forgive everything. There is not - there cannot be - a sin on earth that God will not forgive the truly sorry. Why, a man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God. How could there be a sin that would surpass the love of God? Think only of repentance, all the time, and drive away all fear. Have faith that God loves you more than you can ever imagine. He loves you, sinful as you are and, indeed, because of your sin. It was said long ago that there is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ten righteous men. God now, and fear nothing. Do not be offended if people treat you badly. Do not hold it against them. And forgive your departed husband all the harm he did to you. Become truly reconciled with him. For if you repent, you love, and if you love, you are with God. Love redeems and saves everything. ... Love is such an infinite treasure that it can buy the whole world and can redeem not only your sins, but the sins of all people. So go, and fear no more.



Have a great July