Thinking About Easter for the 53rd Time

Three things caught my attention in the past two weeks: Thinking about Easter, a song I heard on the radio, and a play I saw at Alberta Theatre Projects called Constellations.

In my last post I mentioned that the ritual of observing the church year has been important for me in directing my thinking about faith and life issues. This year is no different. Lent has been an intentional reflection time for me, and Easter has always been a challenge. The Christian Church focuses on Easter as being the defining moment for God at work in history and in our lives. While I agree with this I have always had trouble with the way the church interprets this event. Jesus has always been very important in my life and I know him through prayer and scripture. The word of God still speaks to me after all these years, but I have never been able to figure out this teaching about dying for our sins. I know the theology, and can see that the system works when it includes heaven and hell, judgement day and our human nature being corrupted so badly that we need a saviour to help us. But this system no longer describes the real world for me and many others. The God who sacrifices his son so we/I might have eternal life does not fit for me with the love of God I know. It fits for me if I see the Easter event as a life pattern of letting go so new life can emerge (growing up). I have seen this life, death and new life cycle in my life many times.

I spent 53 years of ministry trying to understand Easter and preach it with integrity. I think that Jesus was modeling faithfulness as making life choices which lead to human transformation. To me it works as a metaphor for the way love works in transforming our lives, and it works in the scientific world if we change the word resurrection to emergence (See Nov.3 blog). But as a real physical event that changes history it seems limiting and inconsistent with my idea of the way a loving God is acting in the world today. Having lost the physical constructs of heaven and hell, for me the meaning of Easter is more about the way I live, the choices I make right now. Continue reading

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I Didn’t See That Coming!

Wednesday mornings I am on my way to 7 am meditation at the church I attend. Wednesday, February 14th I knew it was Ash Wednesday and thought I could escape the ashes on the forehead by going to the weekly contemplative service. However, after the welcoming, the worship leader turned it over to the minister who gives us a short reminder that this is the beginning of Lent and it is always good to remember that we are all going to die (someday). Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I guess this is supposed to get us into a reflective mood.

I have a love – hate relationship with ritual. On the one hand it is boring, words and actions that we say or do that seem to lose their meaning over time and become empty gestures. On the other hand ritual surprises me and orders my life, leading me deeper into the place where God lives. I have always observed the church year. It gives a certain rhythm to my life and a way of celebrating birth, death and transformation as a pattern for life to evolve. Now the invitation is before me. Quickly my mind wonders if I am going to do this, and if I do, what does it mean to me. Continue reading

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“A Lie Will Take You Far, But It Won’t Bring You Home”

This one line in Fred Craddock’s sermon over 30 years ago continues to surface as wisdom for me.  Lies are useful for short-term gain, but eventually the life gained because of a lie falls apart when the truth is discovered.  Lies are destructive because they are not based in reality (perhaps in one person’s or group’s perception of realty). Even though we know this, we lie anyway to get out of a jam, to save face, or because we think what we are saying isn’t important (little white lies).  Most of us lie everyday when we say “fine” when asked how we are.  It is socially acceptable, more comfortable and who really cares anyway (we think to ourselves).  Yet, it does matter.  Lies take us farther and farther away from our own truth that gets neglected, buried and finally out of touch, even to ourselves. Once we are out of touch with the foundation of our life, we make it up as we go along — skimming on the surface of things, relationships and events, moving from one thing to the next.  Making money, buying new technology, addictions to our phones and social media all keep us on the surface and out of touch with the foundation of life where values determine meaning and purpose. Continue reading

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Christmas Time Already: Where’s the Excitement?

When I first began my ministry in 1969, the Christmas story was a literal story about the wonder and miracle of God’s love, the divine coming to us in human form that we might experience the gift of God’s grace welcoming us into his family. God showing us the way home so we would not be lost.  We had our pageants and our decorations.  There were concerts, gifts and excitement.  Then as scholarly exploration of biblical texts became common knowledge, we came to understand that the Christmas story was really several stories and none of them necessarily factually accurate.  The word “myth” was heard more; meaning the story was perhaps not factually true but was presenting an eternal truth in a human story.

That seemed to save the day and as a minister I searched for ways to highlight the eternal truths of God’s love and what better way than in the birth of baby.  Continue reading

Posted in Evolutionary Thinking, Spirituality | 12 Comments

Amazing Grace in an Age of Entitlement

Two weeks ago I started thinking about the parable/story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids (Mathew 25:1-13) which was the basis of a sermon on November 12. The minister commented that it was a difficult passage – one you must live with to get what Jesus was saying. It is not obvious and it is challenging. The minister wrestled with how a loving God could close a door to anyone and why people chosen to be bridesmaids would not share their lamp oil with the less fortunate who were running out of oil. I have been a preacher for 35 years and a minister for 49, and here I am once again wrestling with this scripture for the past two weeks.

The story is not about sharing; it is about being prepared. Being prepared for what? Jesus introduces the story as being about being prepared to enter the Kingdom of God. What does he mean by “Kingdom of God”? This is where evolutionary thinking kicks in for me. This reading comes at the end of Jesus’ ministry and the church places it on the cusp of the season of Advent when we begin again to think about celebrating the entry of Jesus into our lives. I think Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God as life blessed by peace, hope, joy, and love – four important themes in Jesus’ teaching which the church has chosen for the four weeks of advent. An evolutionary perspective recognizes that scripture is about how we live in a complex matrix of life, gifts and opportunities that enable us to grow and evolve. Evolutionary theology does not see Jesus as the one who swoops in at the last minute and makes everything okay. Rather, Jesus is a partner in creation who works with us to make an uncertain future a blessing rather than a disaster. The truth we do not want to believe is that this depends on us, not Jesus. And that means if we are not prepared (don’t have enough oil for the task) when we are called to take the bridegroom to the party, we will lose the opportunity and be shut out. We will miss our opportunity to be part of creation where we experience peace, hope, joy and love. No one can give me their oil; I have to have my own source and I have to have some in reserve for when it is needed. Continue reading

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What Has Love Got to Do With It?

Fortunately, like never before in history, this generation has at its disposal new and wonderful evidence from science, confirming the presence and power of what many of us would call a Very Insistent Love at the heart of all creation. Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation daily blog, 10/22/17,

My ministry has been all about love. God is love. The great commandment to love God, neighbour, and self is a central teaching of Christianity. Vince raised a significant question: Is there a place for a personal, interventionist God in evolutionary thinking? I suddenly realized that I hadn’t mentioned love when talking about the foundation of the universe.

I have on my shelf 29 books about love. Recent books! What is going on here? What is going on here is my continuing quest to understand love as the dynamic, creative power of the universe that is also the motivating force of my personal life. Steve McIntosh, in his book, Evolution’s Purpose, calls it the evolutionary impulse. I want to not only know more about this force, I want to live love and understand more about why I don’t.

In his October 24, 2017 CAC blog, Richard Rohr says, “Anybody who has paid any attention to their inner life or read any history books surely recognizes that life and love are always cumulative, diffusive, and expanding. Perhaps it is this change that we fear. For some reason, we seem to think that admitting such love dynamism, and in fact cooperating with it (see Romans 8:28) is going to compromise our eternal, unchanging notion of God. It’s just the opposite, I think. If our God is both incarnate and implanted, both Christ and Holy Spirit, then an unfolding inner dynamism in all creation is not only certain, but also moving in a positive direction with a divine goal that is always set before us.” I cite this blog because it represents an evolutionary perspective on the trinity (God as infinite, intimate and inner) and love being the directing force of evolution.

Ken Wilber, in his EnlightenNext article, issue 47, p 48, says more vehemently, “There is no way in hell that the universe went from atoms to Shakespeare out of random stabs. This is an extraordinarily driven process.”

Physical science disciplines do not use the word love. Brian Swimm says scientists began learning about the physical universe to discover more about how God creates, and have ended up actually studying the processes that gave birth to the universe. I believe science is talking about the power of love when it says there is an intimate connection between all things in the universe. This connective energy draws us together, holds us together, and guides our interactions in such a way that new life emerges. Emergence, not survival of the fittest, is the goal of evolution. The universe is held together by gravitational interaction. In my opinion, a fancy word for love.

In EnlightenNext, issue 47, Swimm makes three points: 1) The universe is not a place, it is a story about an irreversible sequence of emergent events. 2) Love or ‘homeostasis’ is the way the universe holds its new creation together. 3) Things don’t just come and go, they build on each other and new possibilities emerge.

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Building Blocks of Evolutionary Christianity

After my first post last April, several recipients let me know there was some difficulty with the system that allowed people to respond.  When you arrive at the home page, if you click on the blog title or go to “Recent Posts” in the right hand column and click the desired post you will be taken to the actual blog page and once there you will be able to leave a comment or click to follow the blog.

Then summer arrived and passed into fall and I have been stalled.  I realized that this was going to be more complicated than just posting what I was thinking.  I decided that I needed to show how my life and my thinking are rooted in an Evolutionary Christianity and give some background on what the perspective of Evolutionary Christianity is.

The job I took on was beginning to feel very daunting and I was unsure where to start.  This was a place that felt very familiar to me.  I had been here several times in my personal and vocational life.  In my ministry when I was faced with a decision that could change the course of my life, my strategy was to try to figure it all out before I moved ahead.  My decision to come to Canada to serve a Moravian Church in Calgary, my decision to give up my U.S. Citizenship and become a Canadian citizen, my decision to move from the Moravian Church to the United Church of Canada and, last but not least, my decision to begin a community ministry called Spiritual Directions were a just a few of these moments.   Each time I spent time in prayer and reflection to determine if this really was a “call” for me. But, even when I did believe it was a call I would still spend time trying to figure out all the details until finally I got the message:  “Don’t try to figure it all out, just take the next step.  If you believe this new direction is really a call, just say yes and begin”.  The decision for me is often about trust and moving ahead in faith.

So…. with a new burst of energy and commitment I begin again!

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