Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Every Moment Is a Kairos Moment

Life is busy. We're constantly moving from one thing to the next. Our meetings, commutes, cell phones, etc. rush us along. The Protestant work ethic suggests that we're faithful and good Christians only as long as we're constantly working and busy. The extreme of capitalism suggest that we're important and productive people only if every time slot in our planners is filled with something work-related. The image of Jesus as selflessly sacrificing his time and life for others suggests that we're Christlike only if we're also selfless with our time and life. All of these things form us into super busy and stressed out people who can forget the importance of fun, sabbath, solitude, recreation, quality family time, etc.

When we feel pressure to conform to a busy, stressful lifestyle, we must remember that Jesus took time for rest and renewal - and invited others to do that too. Jesus recognized the need to take care of oneself in order to help take care of others. He understood the importance of self care. Mark 6:31 offers important words: "Jesus said to them, 'Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat." In other words, it's a faithful act to take care of ourselves.

It's okay to limit our jobs to 40 hours a week. It's okay to limit our jobs to 5 days a week. It's okay to take vacations with family. It's okay to practice sabbath by doing things that renew our spiritual energy. It's okay to do fun things that provide us with peace and pleasure. It's okay to live out our life goals in the present moment. It's okay to take care of our own bodies and minds. It's okay to take time to exercise and eat healthy. It's okay to enjoy retirement after a lifetime of work. Really! These things are okay, despite what the dominant narratives of our culture tells us.

Life is short and should be enjoyed and lived to the fullest. Jesus came to invite us into "abundant life" (John 10:10) and "complete joy" (John 15:11). Thich Nhat Hahn invites us to appreciate the miracle of the present moment: "The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. " Nadine Aydt invites us to live fully in the present with a simple suggestion: "Do something every day to make a good memory." All of these ideas beckon us out of incessant busyness and into the "here and now" so we can more fully enjoy our daily lives.

Alanis Morissette's new song, "Incomplete," is a powerful hymn about living life to the fullest in the present moment. The song begins by talking about a list of things Alanis wants to do "one day" (when she has enough time), such as being a good friend and developing a relationship with God. Then the chorus of the song is about realizing she has been rushing toward the finish line of life without making time to do the things she really wants to do in life. In the end, Alanis realized that she'd been "missing the rapture this whole time," so she chooses to change her life and live her dream of "one day," everyday. Instead of rushing through life, she decides to live more fully in the present moment with God, friends, peace, etc. In the end, this song is about discovering that life is now or never. Therefore, "Incomplete" is a great reminder to slow down and enjoy life in the here and now.

Now is the time. Now is the only time. If you want to seek union with God, do it now. If you want to be faith-filled, do it now. If you want to be a good friend, do it now. If you want to find peace, do it now. If you want to enjoy your family, do it now. If you want to have fun, do it now. If you want to seek wholeness, do it now. If you want to appreciate life more fully, do it now. Every moment is a kairos moment, a moment drenched in divine possibility.

Life is sacred. Soak it up for all it's worth!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

New Hymn: "Ancient Spirit, Modern Wonder"

Tune: "Come Thou Fount"

Ancient Spirit, Modern Wonder,
We have come to praise Your name.
Presence known in calm and thunder,
Ever-changing, still the same.
Into being You have sung us,
Loving all as if Your own,
Love embodied, lived among us,
Made to us God fully known.

Beating Heart of all Creation,
working in and through all things.
Earth cries out for Your salvation,
Freedom which our hands can bring.
Countless colors bless our vision,
Reminiscent of Your face,
They remind us of our mission:
Show the world Your love and grace.

Parent of all generations,
Peace you promise; peace you bring.
Yet war rages through the nations;
Draw us close beneath your wings.
Help us see Your paths of justice,
Lead us to Your ways of peace:
That we help our neighbors trust us,
That our fighting e'er will cease.

Quenching Water, Calming Spirit,
Lay your touch on those in pain.
Work through us to bring your Kin-dom
Wash us in Your healing rain.
God, immerse us in your Presence,
Show us ways to welcome all.
Come and fill us with Your essence,
Breaking down divisive walls.

Joyous Mover, Festive Dancer,
All Creation sings for joy
As we seek to find the answers
to the questions we employ.
Grant us meaning in our searching,
Give us strength in times of doubt.
Throughout life, You are emerging;
Holy wisdom you draw out.

The last/extra line was written for Evangelical UCC's capital campaign:

It's our time to join the chorus,
It's our time to lift our voice.
Looking down the road before us,
It's our time to make a choice.
Let us hear Your joyful singing,
Help us make Your verses rhyme.
Hope and welcome, we'll be bringing,
Realizing it's our time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top Ten Modern Spiritual Songs

"All Are Welcome" by Agape - The Eucharist should be this cool and inclusive.

"Help Somebody" by Susan Werner - Progressive Gospel music.

"Forgiveness" by Susan Werner - Explores the process of...yup...forgiveness.

"Incomplete" by Alanis Morissette - An invitation to live fully in the present moment with joy, friends, and God.

"Beyond Belief" by David Wilcox - Makes ya wonder if we're following Jesus - or trying to make Jesus follow us.

"Atheist" by Restoration Village - Trusting in the God of love and justice makes us an atheist to the God of hate and oppression.

"Holy Now" by Peter Mayer - Spirituality at its best.

"Magnificent" by U2 - If only all praise music was this good!

"Beauty of the Gray" by Live - A Galatians 3:28 vision for the world.

"Pendulum Swinger" by Indigo Girls - Politics and religion make better songs than dinner conversations.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wordled Gospel

The book Brian is working on, "A Radical Gospel," was put through Wordle. This was the result:

Wordle: Radical Gospel

It's a little taste of what is to come!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

All Creation Moaning for Redemption Blues

In the summer of 2004, we had the pleasure of volunteering at Holden Village. It's a Lutheran retreat center in the Cascade mountains of Washington state. It was a magestic place that was filled with much hiking, ecology, and theology. Plus, every night there was a community-wide worship service. But not the boring type. Often it was either a deeply spiritual contemptative service or a lively upbeat service. On one particular evening, the Luther College campus minister, Mike Blair, led an eco-justice worship service that ended with a rousing blues song called "All Creation Moaning for Redemption Blues." It's based on Romans 8:22-23; and the blues song brought the Scripture to life in whole new ways. We thought it would be worth posting just before Creation Sunday and Earth Day. Enjoy!


Friday, April 17, 2009

The Flower

Rushing past each delicate petal
on the small, huddled group of flowers
White (despite their environment)
that gazes up from its bed of cigarette butts
old lottery tickets, and page 8b
-or part of it -
from Wednesday's Post Dispatch
Each flower in this family has been blessed
by the Eternal
by the same One who has given life to those
rushing past.
Blessed to be a blessing to those who
take the time
to notice its beauty;
she shivers in the wind.
Five tiny pointed fingers, outstretched
from the intricate yellow sprouting cushion of pollen,
reaching out to touch something
who will take the time
(and we have the time)
to notice.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Jesus Walks" - Henri Nouwen

Recently we went to a service of "reconciliation with Creation" at Saints Clare and Francis Ecumenical Catholic Church in Saint Louis. It was a powerful service that included these words from Henri Nouwen:

"Today, we walk with Jesus. Jesus walked this earth, and he still does. Jesus walks from village to village, and, as he walks, he meets the poor. He meets the beggars, the blind, the sick, the mourners, and those who have lost hope. He remains very close to the earth. He feels the heat of the day and the cold of the night He knows about the grass that withers and fades, the rocky soil, the thorny bushes, the barren trees, the flowers in the fields, and the rich harvest. He knows because he walks so much and feels in his own body the harshness and the vitality of the seasons. He feels the thinning of the ozone layer, the stripping of the soil structure, the mourning of the trees in acid rain, the wailing of the porpoises and dolphins, the condors and frogs, the tigers and rhinoceroses as their habitats dwindle, their compatriots die, and they are left alone. He listens attentively to those with whom he walks, and he speaks to them with the authority of a true companion on the road. He is stern, yet very merciful, direct yet very gentle, demanding yet very forgiving, probing yet very respectful. He cuts deep, but with the hands of a healer; he separates, but only to let grow; he repudiates, but always to make affirmation possible. Jesus is deeply connected to the earth on which he walks. He observes the forces of nature; he learns from them, teaches about them, and reveals that the God of Creation is the same God who sent him to announce good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and freedom to the prisoners."

May these words bless and challenge us all as we move toward Earth Day and Creation Sunday.

Creation Sunday Resources

1. Hymn: "All-Present, All-Visible" (Tune: Immortal Invisible) from Sara

2. Hymn: "This Is My Father's/Mother's World" (Updated) from Sara

3. Video: "For the Beauty of the Earth" from Brian

4. Creation-Focused Prayer of Confession from Brian

5. Creation-Centered Translation of Psalm 8 from Brian

6. Call to Worship (Psalm 23) from Brian

7. Call to Worship (Psalm 150) from Brian

8. Creation Creed from Brian

9. Small Group Study of Earthkeeping from Kim Winchell

10. Complete Creation Sunday Service from Jeanyne Slettom

11. Collection of Worship Materials from the EEN

12. Collection of Worship Materials from the PC(USA)

13. Collection of Worship Materials from the NCC

14. Creative Ideas for Creation Sunday from the ELCA

15. Historical Voices on the Sacredness of Creation

Call to Worship (Psalm 150)

One: Praise God in this holy place! Sing praise throughout the mighty heavens!
All: Sing praise for God’s powerful deeds! Praise God’s unsurpassed greatness!
One: Sing praise with a trumpet sound! Sing praise with lute and harp!
All: Sing praise with tambourine and dance! Sing praise with strings and pipes!
One: Sing praise with resounding cymbals! Sing praise with clashing symbols!
All: Let everything that lives and breathes praise God! Praise the Eternal One!

Call to Worship (Psalm 23)

One: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
All: Holy God, help us take comfort in your faithful guidance.
One: He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
All: Help us to appreciate the gift and comfort of your Creation.
One: He restores my soul and leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
All: Heal us so we may be agents of healing in your Creation.

One: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.
All: Comforting God, even though your Creation is hurt and polluted, help us take courage in your abiding presence.
One: Your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
All: May your guidance strengthen and reassure us.
One: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
All: We thank you for giving us hope even when it seems hopeless.

One: You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
All: Welcoming God, we thank you for your lavish hospitality towards us.
One: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
All: We thank you for your healing presence throughout our entire life.
One: I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
All: We thank you for welcoming us into your eternal embrace. Amen!

"This is My Father's/Mother's World" Updated

This is my Mother’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres
This is my Mother’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; Her hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass; He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world, why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King, let the heavens ring. God reigns, let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. We’re all redemption bound,
For dear to God, is the earth Christ trod. Every land is holy ground.

This is my Mother’s world; a home for you and me
Let’s take good care, and be sure to share, God’s healing, oh, so free
This is my Mother’s world; Her Spirit lives within
Come shout and sing, all nature brings, our praises to begin

Creation Creed

Because God gave us this earth as a home, and declared it “very good,”
we seek to be faithful stewards of this gracious gift.

Because God’s Creation now groans to be brought back to wholeness,
we commit ourselves to work vigorously to protect and heal that Creation for the honor and glory of the Creator.

Because God delivered us from slavery to the promised land,
we seek to respond by liberating others from oppression.

Because God has been revealed in Jesus Christ,
we seek to be his disciples.

Because Jesus calls us to love God, our neighbors, and ourselves,
we strive to care for, and reconcile with, all of God’s beloved people.

Because God loves us eternally,
we know nothing can separate us from God’s abiding presence.

Because God’s Spirit continually brings healing to us, and through us all,
we have reason to hope, celebrate, and rejoice.

Praise be to God! Amen!

Voices on the Sacredness of Creation

"The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is notheard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." - Psalm 19:1-4 (NRSV)

"For even creation reveals the One who formed it, and the very work suggests the One who made it, and the world manifests the One who made it." - Iraneus of Lyons (130-200)

"The Logos extends divine power everywhere, illuminating all things visible and invisible, containing and enclosing them in himself, giving life and everything, everywhere, to each individually and to all together, creating an exquisite single euphonious harmony." - Athanasius (296-373)

"For when one considers the universe, can anyone be so simple-minded as not to believe that the Divine is present in everything, pervading, embracing and penetrating it? For all things depend upon God who is, and nothing can exist which does not have its being in God who is." - Gregory of Nyssa (335-395)

"Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead he set before your eyes the things that he had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?" - Augustine (354-430)

"Look at the animals roaming the forest: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the birds flying across the sky: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the tiny insect crawling in the grass: God’s spirit dwells within them. There is no creature on earth in whom God is absent...When God pronounced that his creation was good, it was not only that his hand had fashioned every creature; it was that his breath had brought every creature to life. Look too at the great trees of the forest; look at the wild flowers and the grass in the fields; look even at your crops. God’s spirit is present within all plants as well. The presence of God’s spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful; and if we look with God’s eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly." - Pelagius (354-440)

"May this place be a sacred place. May this be where heaven and earth meet. Amen." - Aidan of Lindisfarne (?-651)

"The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God." - John Damascene (675-749)

"Christ wears ‘two shoes’ in the world: scripture and nature. Both are necessary to understand the Lord, and at no stage can creation be seen as a separation of things from God." - John Scotus Eriugena (810-877)

“Believe an expert: you will find something far greater in the woods that in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you cannot learn from the masters.” - Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

"Without the Word of God no creature has being. God’s Word is in all creation, visible and invisible. The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. All creation is awakened, called, by the resounding melody, God’s invocation of the Word. All of creation is a symphony of praise to God." - Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

"The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw, and knew, all things in God, and God in all things." - Mechtild of Magdeberg (1210-1279)

"Throughout the entire creation, the wisdom of God shines forth from Him and in Him, as in a mirror containing the beauty of all forms and lights and as in a book in which all things are written according to the deep secrets of God… Truly, whoever reads this book will find life and will draw salvation from the Lord." - Bonaventure (1221-1274)

“...every creature is by its nature a kind of effigy and likeness of the eternal Wisdom. Therefore, open your eyes, alert the ears of your spirit, open your lips and apply your heart so that in all creatures you may see, hear, praise, love and worship, glorify and honor your God.” - Bonaventure (1221-1274)

"Because the Divine could not express itself in any single being, the Divine created the great multiplicity of beings so that the perfection lacking to one would be supplied by the others. Thus the whole universe together participates in and manifests the divine more than any single being whatever." - Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

"Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature – even a caterpillar – I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature." - Meister Eckhart (1260-1329)

"God is entirely and personally present in the wilderness, in the garden, in the field." - Martin Luther (1483-1546)

"God writes the Gospel, not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars." - Martin Luther (1483-1546)

"God’s entire divine nature is wholly and entirely in all creatures, more deeply, more inwardly, more present than the creature is to itself." - Martin Luther (1483-1546)

"The power of God is present at all places, even in the tiniest tree leaf. Do you think God is sleeping on a pillow in heaven?...God is wholly present in all creation, in every corner, behind you and before you." - Martin Luther (1483-1546)

"The creation is quite like a spacious and splendid house, provided and filled with the most exquisite and the most abundant furnishings. Everything in it tells us of God." - John Calvin (1509-1564)

"True Godliness doesn't turn [people] out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavors to mend it." - William Penn (1644-1718)

"There is no peace more wonderful than the peace we enjoy when faith shows us God in all created things." - Jean-Pierre de Caussde (1675-1751)

"Earth is crammed with heaven / And every bush aflame with God / But only those who see take off their shoes." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

"Love all creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light! Love the animals. Love the plants; love everything. If you love everything, you will soon perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

"The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another and all involved in one another." - Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

“There is no way you can be faithful to Scripture and sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit without becoming involved in the efforts to rescue the environment." - Tony Campolo (1935-P)

Sunday, April 12, 2009


When we think about the Biblical testimonies to the continued life and ministry of Jesus, we believe in resurrection.

When we think about the work that The Simple Way does to alleviate poverty, we believe in resurrection.

When we think about the home rebuilding that Back Bay Mission does in Mississippi, we believe in resurrection.

When think about the political advocacy that Call to Renewal does on behalf of the oppressed, we believe in resurrection.

When we think about the progressive, emerging ministries of the United Church of Christ, we believe in resurrection.

When we think about a nation that was build, in part, through slavery, but then years later elected an African American as president, we believe in resurrection.

When we think about the restorative retreat ministries hosted by Holden Village, we believe in resurrection.

When we think about the beautiful wildflowers that come back after a CRP burn, we believe in resurrection.

When we think about the inclusive and justice-fulled songs and liturgies of Christopher Grundy, we believe in resurrection.

When we think about the radically welcoming meal ministry of Jesus that continues today through the Eucharist, we believe in resurrection.

Christ the Lord is risen today - and everyday. Praise be to God!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Importance of Ordained Ministry

In February, I suggested that everyone is ordained through baptism. It was my way of radically affirming the "priesthood of all believers." After reading this blog post, a friend of mine wrote a thoughtful response that challenged my post. Her reply was compelling, so I'm going to include it below:

Dear Brian,

I am not very familiar with the "emergent church," though the "church" surely has been emerging for 2000 years and will always need to do so. Fresh air, updated ideas and effective ways of connecting as community in the world, while remaining faithful to Jesus and his teachings, are needed with each new generation (probably more often). There is always work for the holy spirit in every age.

The attempt to understand and work with the idea and practices of ordination is one such issue for Christians/church people to address, especially when it touches you so individually. The priesthood of all believers, the value and need for the ministry of all Christians, is the context for the more particular step of ordination for some folks. There are a variety of important ways that people are dedicated, blessed, commissioned for their work in partnership with people who carry the yoke, responsibility, weight, privilege, etc. of ordination. The whole team has to be in the scene, some doing their part even without any special recognition by the group as a whole.

Ordination (or commissioning, blessing, etc) is something that the community grants/bestows upon a person: reflecting trust, expecting responsible fulfillment of tasks/activities, offering support to the ordinand, putting in place ways to have accountability, acknowledging special/specialized gifts/training, recognizing publically that person’s "call of God," invoking the holy spirit to be with ordinand and community in their shared life.

This is more complex than a "hierarchy" established by a head guru for a self-serving end. In the UCC this is bottom up in nature, not top down. And it is carried out and carried forward as Christ centered and God blessed, which keeps the playing field level for all in the community, including the ordained person. "Authority" moves back and forth, held by community, given to the ordained, ultimately belonging to God. What does that mean for structure? Clearly there are as many "structures" as there is human imagination.

As to the usual understanding of a pastor (ordained/named/commissioned) and "job" expectations, this example of "ministry" generally involves a wide variety of tasks/activities/skill sets in a (often more than) full time situation. In that way it is different than the valued ministries of all folks in a community that are usually particular (SS teacher, choir director, potluck coordinator, etc, etc) but not necessarily so all inclusive. And there is the expectation that the pastor is facilitator, encourager, trainer, supporter, educator, coordinator, communicator, uplifter, highlighter, etc. of folk in the community so they are able to grow in their capacities to minister in many/new ways. It can be that the size of the job is taxing/scary/overwhelming----a different issue entirely than whether ordination reflects some kind of false hierarchy that is problematic.

Our understanding of the sacraments and how they are to be shared is another part of the broader context in looking at the idea and practices of ordination. For sure, every potluck has the potential for being a holy meal, as is any time food is shared and fellowship is realized. And any time someone is welcomed into the community there may be a touch of baptism, as we greet each other in or out of church. We would do well to be more intentional in these ways in our daily life. Still, is there room for/need of intentional liturgy of baptism and communion (and other sacraments in some traditions) that is something other than our daily routines? What makes communion/baptism authentic or real, legitimate, right and proper? We would hope for more than a social/happy hour with communion and more than magic/voodoo for baptism. Again, the holy spirit is welcomed into whatever version of liturgy is current, and the community looks to the person they have ordained/granted the authority to speak the words. Exceptions happen in situations of crisis, emergency, etc. but it is good to have appointed times and places provided for the life of the community.

Hierarchy and ordination are not just present and/or problematic for the church. Versions of granting authority or authorizing "ministry"/responsibility happen in every human institution, sometimes better and sometimes less well. Pick anything. Education, the legal or justice systems, medicine, science and research, community life in towns, nursing homes, camps, etc, etc. Utopian communes are intriguing and sometimes thrive for a time, but human institutions abound (and need fresh air and reform regularly). Good luck to us with all of them as we work to keep them "faithful" and fair/just and effective. And in most of them individuals are expected to pull their own weight, make a contribution, respect the team effort (allowing for the caring of those unable to do so themselves).


Sunday, April 5, 2009


We've been waiting,
We've been wanting,
We've been there and we've done all that.
We've been trying,
We've been looking;
Only seen our own reflection looking back.

We've been searching,
We've been hoping,
We've traveled a very long way.
We've been talking,
We've been listening,
'Bout time we start to see the light of day.

Heading down the road, wind blowing at our back -
We can choose the destination, but we gotta throw away the map.

You and I, we have the world on a string;
Feet planted on the ground, reaching out for greater things.
Here we are, what's your dream? What's your pleasure?
'Cause all we have is now, and we can choose our own adventure.

We've been thinking,
We've been watching;
Clouds have cleared and now they're gone from the sky.
Sun is rising,
Dawn is breaking,
It's time to spread our wings and learn how to fly.

Heading down the road, wind blowing at our back -
We can choose the destination, but we gotta throw away the map.

You and I, we have the world on a string;
Feet planted on the ground, reaching out for greater things.
Here we are, what's your dream? What's your pleasure?
'Cause all we have is now, and we can choose our own adventure.

You can choose your own adventure.