July 5, 2019
Discussion and dispute of the right relationship between religion and politics is a feature ofAmerican life from its earliest days, becoming especially heated and contentious in the last few decades.
Some say that we must have a strict separation of politics and religion. That would be hard for Christians who have heard Jesus preach, teach and demonstrate the coming Kingdom of God. He sided with the poor and marginalized, he embraced the alien and stranger, he healed those who were thought ‘unworthy,’ he challenged the standards and establishments of political power with the proclamation that God’s power is an unyielding love.
Separation of religion and politics? If our faith means anything, it drives our witness in the world, it shapes our politics.
I believe Jesus when he says, I am the way, and the truth, and the life, (John 14) I just wish people would pay more attention to what that way is! Jesus’ way moves by offering and invitation, not by dominance and control. It breaks through petty limits and parochial boundaries imposed on the grace of God. Jesus’ way is to give all he is and all he has so that the vision should never arrest in him, always pointing to the fullness of truth in God’s love, forever full and free.
Following Jesus’ way, Christianity is not so much a religion of virtue as it is a religion of grace. Far more than preaching what everybody else is supposed to do, it is us banding together in grateful response to what God has done, and is doing, and calls us to do.
Jesus Christ is not a prophet of other-worldly razzle-dazzle. He is in himself the advent of a holy politics: an exercise of courage and conviction and power to organize, influence and lead for justice, changing the course of events, creating a different outcome, a new consciousness, a transformed reality.
We turn toward the poor and marginalized, we turn toward the alien and stranger, we turn toward each other in consciousness of all our differences to take up our shared responsibility in faithfulness to God, proclaiming our faith that God’s power is an unyielding love.
God bless America. Happy Independence Day. I’ll see you in church,
June 28, 2019
Like many folks, I look forward to vacation time with my family this summer. In fact, one of the very nice things for me about serving in Irvine is easier access to family, almost all of whom live in the West. The fun I enjoy with them is full and rich, and I love them.We share a story that connects us in caring, one to the other, generation upon generation.
Even so, it makes me twitch a little when I hear people refer to the “church family,” as iffamily were the model of what church is supposed to be. In fact, the Gospel stories andteachings about family tend to be critical and sound harsh, not because Jesus didn’tlove and enjoy his family (clearly he did) but because Jesus wants his followers tounderstand that they are being called to considerably more than family norms andvalues.
Does that sound strange? Perhaps so, but in this Pride month, I’d like to suggest thatone of the most powerfully creative things queer folks have done for families is call themto an expansive vision, and a fuller sense of community.Christians of all sorts are called to live into the Kin’dom of God, a mission andmovement of beloved community that reaches out especially to those who don’t belong.
I’ll see you in church,
June 21, 2019
As delegates from all over the United Church of Christ begin now to gather in Milwaukee for our 32nd General Synod, I encourage you to pray for them and for their prophetic work on our behalf.
Being prophetic is not so much about seeing the future as it is concerned for recognizing and telling the moral truth of what is happening right now, how we do or don’t honor God’s will for justice, mercy and peace.
So, for example, there’s nothing especially prophetic about seeing that global warming caused by human activity is melting the polar ice caps and may lead to calamity visited upon all life within a generation. The prophetic word is that we are abusing the creation God has given into our care, that the burden of climate change and extreme weather ginned up by human fouling of the environment falls most heavily on the poorest and least powerful, but it will catch up with all of us eventually.
Repent and turn from your wicked ways, says the prophet. Treat the gift with respect, consume less and give more, caring for the least and lost first. And woe to you who could do something to change the course of degradation and don’t. Woe to you who gorge yourselves on the plenty of the earth until what was given as good is turned to poison. Woe to you and to your children and to your children’s children!
It’s not easy being a prophet.
Telling the moral truth, proclaiming God’s will for justice and peace right now is usually a risk, especially risky when addressing those who enjoy comfort, perhaps advantage, in the status quo.
The United Church of Christ is a prophetic Christian movement. From our beginnings, we have been the first, or among the very first churches to recognize, proclaim and teach God’s will for justice…for women, for African-Americans, for persons with disabilities, for LGBTQ people, for the environment, for workers and all manner of exploited or marginalized groups… we have discerned and prophesied God’s will for reconciliation of division, for peace rather than war.
Throughout its history, the UCC has been a prophetic tradition, and it hasn’t always gone easily. But through the years of bump and grind, the prophetic word we have received from General Synod has encouraged and empowered us to live more fully into our faith that God loves all, and that God’s will is for justice, mercy and peace, not just in the time to come, but right now.
See you in church,
June 14, 2019
The Trinity? Who knows and who cares?
This Sunday, Trinity Sunday, I’m hoping we might all come to say, “we do!”
The idea of defining God is silly, so I don’t really care whether our understanding of Trinity is doctrinally“correct,” but I do think it is important we see how Trinity might help us grow in our experience of God’s love, following in the way of Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine.
In the course of the service we’ll enjoy a special video guest appearance by St. Patrick (yes, thatSt. Patrick) we’ll flirt with at least three big heresies, and we’ll come to recognize, I pray, that Trinity does matter!
See you in church,