What About the Second Coming of Jesus?

There are many ways to understand Revelation, whether it points us to the future or to the past, and whether or not its proclamation of a second coming by Jesus reflects a coming historical event. People of genuine faith hold very different views. Most important is that we approach faith as a whole with passion and relevance–that our interpretations of apocalyptic literature and our reactions to the interpretations and beliefs of others do not divide us from each other and do not prevent us from doing what Jesus taught: “Love one another.” There is a clear biblical priority to work for justice, peace, and compassion among all people. All Christians need to live courageously and with passion as we seek to follow Jesus. It is crucial that we always remember how the Apostle Paul reminded us: “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8: 38-39)

As a fifteen year old, I was drawn to an exciting view of Revelation, one that made my faith seem real, relevant, and important. I no longer believe that particular view reflects good biblical scholarship, but I still find faith to be real, relevant, exiting, and important. This past week, at Church camp, I experienced that reality, relevance, and importance through the majesty of hiking through mountains and woods, the poignancy of sharing life and life stories with others, and the mystical presence of taking time away from usual routine to hear the still, small voice of the Spirit. I was reminded that the presence of God is around us always and the life of God through the Spirit of Christ is in each of us. I believe God waits eagerly for each of us to step up to full partnership with God’s own Spirit in realizing God’s own dream of Shalom. This dream seeks not to destroy evil, but to transform evil into what is good and holy through the power of love. Life doesn’t get more tangible, exciting, and real than that!

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Jesus and Us: Divine and Human

We are in God and God is in us. We are one, inseparable. The dual natures of humanity and divinity that were present in Jesus are present in us as well. Let us remember that we all are divine spiritual beings and we all are human, physical beings. We all are one in God. There is no distance between God and each of us, though at times the distance can seem infinitely large because of our perspective. In reality, we are two sides of the same coin.
We are called to awaken to the true and divine nature of ourselves and of each human being. As we do, we begin to see each other as reflections of God’s very nature. As you recognize and treasure that divine nature in each human being, including yourself, you will find that you are working to transform the world into the shalom of God. You will begin to hear that voice within you saying, “this is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.” You will discover, even without even intending to, that you are giving birth to God’s new creation. And that matters a lot. In Jesus’ name, it’s what we’re all about!
What did you learn from this article? There is so much more to the question of Jesus’ humanity and divinity than appears on the surface. When you look at the facts, you can see that the idea of Jesus as God developed within the Christian Church. It was present, but not fully developed, in the New Testament. But as with most things spiritual, there is a deeper meaning that is available and vital for us to discover.

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A Journey Worth Finishing

A Journey Worth Finishing

Somewhere along the line in my life, the idea of journey became my operative theme. That’s certainly not unique to me. I am increasingly aware, however, of how important this theme has become to the choices I make, and how I feel about those choices and their implications. My journey of being a pastor, first working primarily through the medium of music and drama and then a pastor in the more conventional sense, has encompassed has been my full-time work for more than thirty years. But now, as the result of choosing to follow my wife Kathy on her professional journey, I find myself working very part-time as a pastor and also part-time as a college professor of music.

When I chose to leave the church I had served as pastor for ten years in Kansas City, I absolutely expected to be working full-time again as a pastor in a church within a few months. That would have given me a feeling of professional continuity and us considerably more financial security than we are experiencing. Instead, it took many months to find even part-time ministry work. Yet, despite the anxiety with regard to money, I believe my life is unfolding as it should. My journey of growth and fulfillment continues unabated. The fearful times reveal a great deal about who I have become and what I am valuing. This is an insight that probably would not be so available to me apart from those experiences of fear, weakness, and disorientation. I know it brings more integrity to what I say from the pulpit and what I bring to pastoral relationships.

In the last week of his life, as the Christian gospels tell it, Jesus faced many fears and many temptations to lose the direction of his journey. In each case, he was able to remember who he was and whose he was. As a result, he finished his journey faithfully and gave each of us reason to hope that we, too, can be faithful, each on our own journey. God’s promise is to be faithfully present with us always, to the very end of our journey, as we finish where we began—in the very heart of God.

Each person, no matter how old (or young), has an important work to do…. This good
work not only accomplishes something needed in the world, but completes something in
us. When it is finished, a new work emerges that will help us to make green a desert place, as well as to scale another mountain in ourselves. The work we do in the world, when it is true vocation, always corresponds in some mysterious way to the work that goes on within us. (Elizabeth O’Connor, Cry Pain, Cry Hope)

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Let Go and Have It All

When I need to be right at all costs, and we disagree, then I need for you to be wrong. I’m opposed to you unless you agree with me completely. That’s how I know I’m right. If, however, you must be wrong in order for me to be right, then I’ve lost myself in you. I have, in effect, given my power to you. But if my power rests in you, when I must be right and you wrong to preserve my own worth, what if I’m proven wrong? If that is the case, then my value is diminished. Either way, right or wrong, I’ve lost control of my own sense of worth.

But what if I let go of my need to be right and my need for you to be wrong, then we can just be. Can’t we? You can be just you and I’ll be just me, and our power returns to our own center—each of us. And we’ll both find God there, waiting for us.

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About God, About Life

To journey in the

Eternal Spirit is to

Ride the winds of change

To find honest faith

You will have to live so that

You need honest faith

For you to trust God

You will release anything

That makes you feel safe

Let change sweep you up

Let faith be what you need most

Let God trust in you

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Learning About God through Google Maps

Sometimes, we learn best about God by looking at those around us. Among the many things I have learned as I‘ve grown older is a great appreciation for how my parents and teachers were learning as they went along in life. It always seemed as though they knew just what to do, but I am more and more confident that they were largely making it up as they went along. Clearly, they were guided by life rules and philosophies, by faith, and by the “best practices” they had seen (kind of like Google Map directions), but there must have been a lot of improvisation!

As citizens of a society and as people of faith, we are in the same boat today. The U. S. Constitution gives us guidance about our freedoms, but we have to work out just what that means. How much freedom of speech can we practice and where does it cross the line? How much freedom do we have to “bear arms,” and where does it cross the line? The hardest part of these questions is that we don’t just have to decide for ourselves what the boundaries are. We have to decide as a society of responsible human beings. In other words, we have to find enough agreement to move forward together. This is what we will be trying to do around the large issue of curbing gun violence over the next several weeks.

As people of faith, we fool ourselves to think that our scriptures provide ready-made answers for us. They provide guidance and great understanding, but they also challenge us to think and act for ourselves in light of the values we perceive as fundamental. And the problem is that we do not always share the same fundamental values! That brings us to faith.

One of the oft forgotten dimensions of faith is that there is a power beyond our wisdom and beyond our interpretation that shapes a great deal of life. If each of us, representing a wide variety of faith traditions, can be faithful to our interpretations and also relinquish the need to control the conversation—in other words, trust that God will shape the grand scope of life—we just might find ourselves accomplishing some good as citizens and as faithful people. May God bless us—every one!

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Wisdom Is Born

Some years ago, I heard a preacher tell a story that still speaks to me about wisdom—the birth of wisdom many of us celebrate in the birth Jesus. I do not remember who the preacher was, but I want to credit and thank him. This is the story:

In the middle of the night, in a major, metropolitan municipality, evidently someone broke into a    large national electronics store. According to the police, there was evidence of a robbery. The   alarm sounded. The police were alerted, but no robbers were apprehended. And there was one           other curious factor. When the store manager reviewed inventory, she discovered that nothing    was missing! The robbers failed to actually steal anything! So business resumed and customers         arrived. That’s when the reality of what had transpired began to reveal itself. Customers          purchasing small-ticket items, such as batteries, had the prices scan in at the checkout as    exorbitantly high: hundreds of dollars! But then, people started bringing up flat screen TV’s and     I-phones. Those prices scanned as $2 and $3.95. All of a sudden, the reality of what had    happened became clear. The price tags had been changed! Low-cost items were very          expensive and high-priced ones discounted. Highly-valued commodities were de-valued and       vice verse.

The wisdom Jesus taught and exemplified changed all the values of his world – and ours as well! He considered that power, status, and money of little value and only insofar as they serve to help and save people in need, to foster justice and equity between people. Compassion, generosity, solidarity with the poor, and identification with the powerless becomes the highest value—to be greatly desired. God’s wisdom, personified in Jesus, was quite different from the wisdom of the world, the wisdom represented by the Magi. Like all people, we have to choose which wisdom we will seek and by which wisdom we will live.

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Finding Truth on the Journey of Faith

Finding truth on the journey of faith means to discover who you are and what you want, especially when you find yourself at a crossroads in your life. The most important thing is to trust yourself and God who lives in you. Faith means discovering who you are and what you want your life to be. Faith is not what someone else tells you or gives you, but what you choose. Freedom is God’s gift. You are free to question, envision, and create, fully capable of working with others to create a world of justice, peace, and inclusive love–free to sing a new song and compose the new together.

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The Lesson of Fear and Faith

Easter and Passover are two major religious festivals that happen around the same time each year. They both have many lessons to teach us today, but perhaps the most important is the lesson of fear. The Hebrew people walked to freedom out of slavery in Egypt, across a wilderness of wandering, and into a Promised Land. Jesus walked the path of betrayal, suffering and death that led to resurrection. Both experiences must have held a great deal of fear. The new life lay through the fear and beyond it.
When we are able to own our fear and then hold it with our faith, fear can begin to lose its hold on us. To own our fear means to acknowledge it, articulate it, and let it become real and tangible to us. To hold it with faith means to step decisively in the direction of what we trust and value most in life. It means affirming who we are and where we are going. When we move along the pathway of discovering and living that sense of call—toward engagement that arouses our passion and brings us joy—such action can reveal how shallow our fears actually are.
Fear can be problematic in our lives by taking us out of our deepest selves, but fear is not ultimately the problem. In fact, fear can be helpful by alerting us to real danger. So, rather than trying to talk yourself out of feeling afraid, which seldom works anyway, let fear move you toward your deeper self. Let it motivate you to let go of the false self you may be borrowing or be more honest with the people in your life you are just trying to please. Fear can be a narrow gate onto a winding road that is the journey of life. Faith is the only way through that gate and along that road. It can be a lonely road, but we don’t walk it alone.

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The Path of Change

The Path of Change

Life is filled with change. The question is how will we embrace that change and live into it. The hope we have is to “be the change we want to see.” This is perhaps the key message of the Christian faith—that God was present in Jesus showing us the kind of person we each can become. Our prayers for the world to become a place of peace, justice, compassion and love are a challenge to each of us to become that change we long to see. I can hear God’s answer to our prayers: “Yes, now is the time for you to make peace and justice, and to live with compassion and love in your life. Now is the time to see the divine presence within yourself in the middle of your fear!”  Let us embrace that divine presence within us and find power in the divine around us, and become the change we want to see in this world. Now is the time.

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